Whether you like it or not, Bryson DeChambeau is the most entertaining golfer in the world. Possibly, ever. He has always done things his way from when he was a kid until now and will continue to do so in the future. His career has always been on a different path than the traditional professional golfer, and it crescendoed at Pinehurst this week. It wasn’t long ago that Bryson was not liked by his peers, the media, and fans. Now his peers, the media, and fans and he have flipped. He interacts with the fans more than every other professional golfer combined. He uses his YouTube channel as well as any athlete has. He lets his personality show and he’s embraced everything that comes with being a superstar rather than trying to combat it. Not often do superstar athletes get the chance to go from hated to beloved, but Bryson has. And he’s done it his way.

On his profile on LIV Golf’s website, one of the questions he’s asked is, what is the shot that gives you the most difficulty? His answer is, “60-yard bunker shot”. His 273rd shot of the tournament was a 55-yard bunker shot, on the 72nd hole, with the world watching, a second U.S. Open Championship on the line, and all the pressure conceivable to deliver. He was watching Rory McIlroy right in front of him crumble in the final four holes. He had to hit the perfect shot, and he did. When he needed it most, the shot that gives him the most difficulty, turned into the most clutch shot he’s ever hit.

When DeChambeau won his first major in 2020 at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open, fans weren’t allowed as this was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was eerily quiet as DeChambeau who had recently transformed his body into a Hulk-like character overpowered the field and put together a dazzling performance. He fired a 3-under 67 to win the Championship by six strokes, incidentally, also a 6-under 274 score like he did this week. He was far more reserved and with no fans there, didn’t have anyone to interact with, didn’t play to the cameras as he does now, and didn’t have the popularity he does now. In a way, he was a completely different golfer and person then, and it was only four years ago.

He’s reclaimed the golf world in popularity and now he’s starting to take the sports world by storm. The phrase “growing the game” gets used so politically in golf, but DeChambeau truly grows the game. His YouTube channel has hundreds of thousands of views for every video he puts out, he has millions of followers on social media, and he signs countless autographs for people of all ages. He’s pouring everything he has into golf and attempting to make it a better place than when he first got into it. His popularity grows with each major he contends in and with each innovative move he makes both on and off the course. Things are going in the right direction for DeChambeau and it feels like this won’t be the last time we talk about him winning another major, possibly majors.

Bobby Jones once said, “Nobody ever wins the National Open. Somebody else just loses it.” Today, that somebody is Rory McIlroy. McIlroy has been snakebitten in the majors ever since 2014, lost the U.S. Open in one of the most historic collapses in recent memory. When McIlroy burst onto the scene, he almost won his first major in 2011 at The Masters, where he held the lead going to the back nine. He hit an errant tee shot on the 10th hole that began a catastrophic final nine holes that saw him miss out on winning his first major. After that, he came back with a vengeance at the U.S. Open where he blitzed the field at Congressional and set a record for the lowest score at a U.S. Open ever. When he won his fourth major championship, the 2014 PGA Championship by a shot over Phil Mickelson, the question was, “How many majors will Rory win in his career?” Not many would’ve suggested that a decade later he’d still be sitting at four majors. It seemed inconceivable. And he’s been oh so close, so many times.

This is the closest Rory McIlroy has been to getting the major monkey off of his back. McIlroy is a global superstar and is a first-name celebrity. When you say Rory, everyone knows you’re talking about Rory McIlroy. Lately, McIlroy has been at the center of the great divide in golf, trying to fight the good fight off the course, while fighting major demons on the course. He’s found the winner’s circle plenty of times on the PGA Tour, even before LIV Golf was birthed. McIlroy, like DeChambeau, is a polarizing figure in golf. He’s expected to win and is always towards the top as a betting favorite in every event he competes in. This week was no different leading up to the Championship but the result was no different too.

McIlroy has had some close calls in majors, but nothing like this. Lately, the trend has been that Rory is chasing the leader. He seldom has held the lead at majors on the weekend as a whole. That’s what makes his most recent heartbreak, hurt that much more. After his bogey on 15, McIlroy played the 16th pretty well as he had a long birdie putt, but his putting was carrying him throughout the final round. His lag putt put him just under three feet away from the hole. On the season, McIlroy was 496 for 496 on putts 3 feet or less. On 16, he was 1 for 2, missing his second putt for an unexpected bogey to pull him even with DeChambeau. On 18, McIlroy this time had a three-foot, nine-inch putt for par and to possibly force a playoff. He missed that one too. Putting has always been one of the leading factors in McIlroy not prevailing in majors and when he needed it most, the putter failed him once more.

The 1,000th USGA Championship delivered a once-in-a-lifetime finish that will stick with anyone who watched it for a long time. In 1999, Payne Stewart needed an up and down on the 72nd to preserve a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson and to win the U.S. Open Championship. He did just that and his celebration has been immortalized forever with a statue at Pinehurst, and a replay of that celebration that will be shown forever. DeChambeau referenced Stewart as an inspiration throughout the week and the parallels are staggering. Both won two U.S. Opens, both wore unique hats, both changed their personalities to become very likable, both went college at SMU, and both left an imprint on the game. Stewart tragically died in a plane crash later in 1999 but his legacy lives on forever. DeChambeau already has a legacy that will live on for a long, long time.

Majors are so damn easy to lose and so damn hard to win. Today perfectly encapsulated that, as DeChambeau didn’t have his best stuff, but had just enough. The dual between DeChambeau and McIlroy will go down as an instant classic for fans worldwide. It’ll be a memory DeChambeau will hold onto forever and a nightmare McIlroy won’t ever escape.

Golf’s Greatest Showman will continue to march to the beat of his drum, and his next act might be even greater than before.


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