Golf

How mad scientist US Open golf winner Bryson DeChambeau found his feet

How the Mad Scientist found his winning formula: US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau emerged from a golfing laboratory to make all his clubs the same length, soak his golf balls in salt and put on three stone

  • New US Open golf champion Bryson DeChambeau has a remarkable backstory
  • The man who delivered a masterpiece on Sunday can prove a contentious figure
  • DeChambeau was inspired by a scientific teaching manual as a teenage hopeful
  • The 27-year-old underwent a striking physical transformation during lockdown 

If you are one of those people who spends too long on social media, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bryson DeChambeau winning the US Open on Sunday was a ruinous afternoon for golf.

Look what he has done to his body shape. Look what he has done to the game. He hits the ball too far, he has got no finesse, he is leading the sport down a path where there will be no artistry left. He is too slow, too arrogant, and no one likes him.

Well, as they say, they are opinions. But here are some more. The hardest-working man in golf won America’s national championship. A man who has never been afraid to think outside the box and challenge accepted wisdom, who has faced down widely-held ridicule and won the US Open in absolutely his own way.

Bryson DeChambeau has been mocked in the past but his US Open win came on his own terms

On Sunday, what DeChambeau delivered was a sporting masterpiece, a final-round 67 that will stand as the most complete round of golf we will witness this year. Forget all this garbage about him muscling his way to victory. You do not beat the field’s average score by eight shots if you are simply a long-driving freak show.

The stats show that the 27-year-old Californian hit more fairways than most, was more accurate with his irons, displayed a gossamer touch around the greens, and holed more than his fair share of putts.

It is true that he can empty a locker room when he walks in, but, almost to a man, the pros put their personal reservations to one side to salute him. They know brilliance when they see it.

‘When he was demolishing some of the easy set-ups after lockdown I said, “OK, let’s see what he does on a proper golf course”,’ said Rory McIlroy. ‘Well, this was as proper as they come, and look what happened.’

For the most fascinating and polarising man in golf, it was the day he dared dream about, when all those experiments that earned him the moniker of the Mad Scientist were validated.

Here’s how he did it, and what comes next.

The Californian’s glory on Sunday was the reward for a golfer who has often thought differently

GROWING UP

DeChambeau was always different. Whoever heard of a 13-year-old obeying his parents when asked to clean their untidy bedroom? Dad Jon takes up the story. 

‘Bryson grabbed the mop, the broom brush and the vacuum cleaner,’ he said. ‘He got hold of the Pledge to polish the doors and the 409 (a cleaning agent). Three hours, it took him. When he finished, it was crazy spotless.’

At 15, and inspired by a scientific teaching manual, The Golfing Machine, DeChambeau began his experiments.

He had all his irons made with the same length of shaft as his six iron. He put on XL grips that make the club feel more like a cricket bat. He soaked golf balls in Epsom salts to make sure the centre of gravity was spot on and learned to play left-handed to improve his motor skills.

University coaches were left dumb-struck by the quality of his ball striking but were put off by his many quirks. DeChambeau chose the relatively little known Southern Methodist University in Texas, partly because the coach allowed Bryson to be himself.

While there, he won the US Amateur Championship and was a star at the 2015 Walker Cup at Lytham. 

Some of DeChambeau’s earliest coaches were impressed by the ball striking he is a master at

COACHING SET-UP

It took time, but DeChambeau has assembled a team around him attuned to his unique approach, including long-time coach, Mike Schy. ‘Golf is all about feel,’ Tiger Woods once said.

‘Feel is the enemy,’ counters Schy. ‘You get to the tee and there’s a water hazard to the left and thousands of spectators to the right. How do you feel now?’ 

Schy has since been joined by Chris Como. During lockdown, Como transformed his living room into a golfing laboratory, complete with a hitting net, putting green, and all sorts of technical gadgetry.

DeChambeau practised for seven hours each day, proudly loading his results daily on to social media. 

The 27-year-old is truly dedicated to his sport and shares his results regularly on social media

DIET

It was while watching Brooks Koepka muscle the ball from the Bethpage rough to win the US PGA Championship last year that DeChambeau resolved to get stronger. And bigger. 

Lockdown provided him with the perfect opportunity. When he wasn’t practising, or doing twice-daily sessions in the gym, he ate. And ate. Breakfast was four eggs, five strips of bacon and two protein shakes.

Lunch was four peanut butter sandwiches and two more shakes. Dinner was two steaks, potatoes and two more shakes. He put on 40lb, close to 3 stone.

Fellow professionals struggled to comprehend the change to their rival’s physique in lockdown

THE TRANSFORMATION

When lockdown ended, his fellow pros could not believe the difference in his body shape. Then they couldn’t believe his golf, with an addition of 20mph of clubhead speed equating to 40 yards in distance. 

In the last four months, his improvement has been off the charts – and he was already one of the world’s top 15. A man who had never mustered anything better than a tied 15th finish in the majors finished tied fourth at the US PGA Championship.

On Sunday, his six-stroke winning margin was the largest in a major for six years. Since June, he has also won on the regular tour and amassed three other top-four finishes.

Caddie Tim Tucker (left) has detailed the sacrifices made by DeChambeau to be one of the best

A look at DeChambeau’s extraordinary record

WORK ETHIC 

There were two evenings at Winged Foot where they had to turn the floodlights on at the end of an exhausting day because one golfer still wanted to practise. It was Bryson both times.

‘He sacrifices everything for this game,’ says his caddie, Tim Tucker. ‘His perfect day is hanging out on the range from morning to night hitting balls.

‘If he’s not doing that, he’s in the gym or thinking about the game or reading about it. It’s his whole life.’

UNPOPULARITY

When you are looking for a free drop because there are fire ants two yards from your ball, or trying to tell a rules official that your ball is in bounds when it clearly isn’t, you are never going to win popularity prizes with your peers.

On Sunday night at the prize ceremony, DeChambeau responded to the first congratulatory question by thanking his sponsors, accompanied by the sound of televisions being switched off around the world. Interviewing him, he can be personable one day and dismissively off-hand the next.

Does any of it matter? They used to make similar complaints about Sir Nick Faldo, and it worked out all right for him.

THE FUTURE

It is tempting to think we are at the start of a revolution but we are not. There is only one Bryson. But he has definitely hastened the direction of travel the game has been taking for a long time now, and that is to hit the ball as far as possible.

It will be interesting to see what approach the governing bodies take when the next stage in their distance insight project is published in March.

In the meantime, DeChambeau is ploughing on with his next experiment. By the Masters in November, he wants to have a driver in the bag with a 48-inch shaft – three inches longer than standard – that will deliver 200mph clubhead speed and 400-yard drives. To do that, he needs to get stronger and bigger still.

‘He’s never going to stop,’ says Tucker. ‘He’s going to keep pushing it.’

DeChambeau would not necessarily win the popularity stakes and his persona can be variable




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