Bryson DeChambeau: Victory validates scientific approach to winning

Bryson DeChambeau poses with the championship trophy following the final round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run on July 16, 2017 in Silvis, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Bryson DeChambeau poses with the championship trophy following the final round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run on July 16, 2017 in Silvis, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Bryson Dechambeau brought his physics knowledge to the John Deere and now he’s taking it to Royal Birkdale – will the scientific approach help him tame Royal Birkdale?

For certain, Bryson DeChambeau is the first physics major to play professional golf. Now he’s the first one to win and he’ll get the opportunity to put scientific golf to the test next week at Royal Birkdale.

Get out your imaginary numbers and differential calculus books. Math is about to take a front row seat.

DeChambeau admitted after winning,

"I was just hoping to make it to next year. I wasn’t playing my best, but that’s really what I was kind of hoping to do."

With his one-length clubs, certainly DeChambeau has been an outlier. A lot of people thought his theories were crazy or just plain wrong. But with his track record as an amateur, and because he was just the fifth golfer to win both the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur, it was hard to ignore him, particularly because the others who have won that double include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore and Jack Nicklaus.

In other words, as ridiculous as his theories sounded to most golf insiders, with those two amateur victories, it looked as though he had at least the potential to get on the PGA TOUR.

Early Disappointments on the Pro Stage

DeChambeau got his PGA TOUR card by winning the DAP Championship on the Tour, but then he had to earn his keep.

Two days before his win at the John Deere DeChambeau admitted disappointment with his performance..

"I thought coming out here my first year I would be killing it, and I’m not."

Compounding the situation, when he earned his PGA TOUR card, he tried to work on getting stronger, seeking length. Instead of taking him to the top of the leaderboard, it led to missed cuts. After missing eight straight cuts, from the RBC Heritage through the U.S. Open, he finished T-26, T17 and T14 at Traveler’s, Quicken Loans and Greenbrier.

Here’s how DeChambeau explained what he was trying to do:

"It was going more into a longer swing, trying to hit it harder and farther and maybe I could time it out, and just didn’t work for me. I was able to understand about three weeks ago that I can just keep it in the fairway every day and hit it on the green close and make couple putts. That’s what I’m doing."

For DeChambeau, Direction Trumps distance

It sounds so simple, but in the era of Dustin Johnson hitting a golf ball nearly four football fields, it’s difficult to get comfortable with the idea of hitting just three football fields. DeChambeau’s driving distance average last week was between 282 and 320 yards, depending on the round.

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What he did excel at was hitting fairways, with zero missed fairways in round one. His percentage dropped after that, with 71 percent in round two, and 64 percent in rounds three and four. But in the final round, when he had to come back from a four-shot deficit if he wanted to win, despite not hitting more fairways, he hit 99 percent of the greens in regulation.

His putting, which was also controversial and included a quick stint with sidesaddle and a battle with the USGA, has also improved.

"I feel like I’m really turning the right direction, being able to see reads, confirm them, and be able to execute them on line. Before, when I was putting a different way, I didn’t have some variables that I understood in regards to how hard to hit putts for certain things, uphill, downhill."

And it was his putter that made the difference on the final hole when he poured in a 14-footer for birdie and what looked like it was good enough for a playoff until Patrick Rodgers bogeyed the 17th and could not birdie the 18th.

“Patrick is a great competitor. I’ve played a lot of golf with him in college,” DeChambeau explained.

"I was kind of shocked to see he bogeyed 17. I thought I was going to be in a playoff making that putt, but it was enough."

DeChambeau knew it was an uphill battle to have a chance to win.

"I needed to take it deep; needed to shoot 7-, 8-under. I knew that I was comfortable hitting every kind of shot out here. It was just a matter of if I could hit it under the pressure. That’s all it was."

Victory Validates Science

He definitely viewed the victory as vindication of his theories on how to play golf.

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"There has been a lot of talk. I had somebody say, go back and get your old clubs or whatever. Happens every week. I just throw it to the side and say, don’t even worry about it. You’re going down the road you’ve chosen and you’re comfortable with it, and you know it’s going to, in the end, be the right thing."

In the simplest sense, what DeChambeau said he is trying to do is to minimize the variables in golf.

"I want to make it easier for the amateurs. I think there is an easier way out there and people just haven’t figured it out,” he said. “I hope I’m on the right track. I really believe I am."

If nothing else, you can bet that this week, a few more people are looking into irons that are all the same length.

Next: The Open Championship power rankings

Now we’ll have the opportunity to see how well DeChambeau’s scientific theories serve him on the Birkdale links.