Is Bryson bound? 2nd US Open in reach

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M. James Ward examines the remarkable turnaround from previous enigma to fan favorite now with a win at Pinehurst firmly in sight.
Posted on
June 16, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

PINEHURST, NC. After bogeying the long par-4 4th during Saturday's third round it appeared Bryson DeChambeau would be in a for long day on Pinehurst No.2 as a bevy of contenders jockeyed for position at the 124th US Open.

But that bogey served as a catalyst for the 2020 US Open champion and he demonstrated brilliant play with a series of birdies at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 14th holes opening up a four-shot lead.

The lone hiccup came at the long par-4 16th. Bryson hit a long accurate tee shot leaving him just over 180 yards to the green. His approach came up short followed by a botched chip shot and he needed three additional shots before leaving the hole with a double-bogey and his lead cut in half.

It was at this crucial time DeChambeau demonstrated what superior players are capable of doing in such pivotal moments. At the penultimate hole his approach on the par-3 finished just over eleven feet away and he proceeded to sink the putt for a superb birdie.

He closed out his round with a par at the 18th for a round of 67 and heads into the final round with a three-shot lead over a trio of golfers among them Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Matthieu Pavon.

DeChambeau joined the pro golf ranks in 2016 after becoming just the seventh collegian to win the NCAA individual title and US Amateur in the same year. His cerebral style presented a stand-offish personality to both fellow professionals and gallery members. Fans had a difficult time relating to him and Bryson did not exactly do anything to endear himself in a positive manner with a series of public gaffes and an ongoing public tussle with Brooks Koepka.

His talent has never been in dispute, highlighted to date by his dominant victory at Winged Foot in 2020. The triumph was his first major title and he won it in dominating fashion with the only score under-par (67) for the final round fashioning a six-shot winning margin. The win placed Bryson in an elite club with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to have won the NCAA individual, the US Amateur and US Open in a career.

DeChambeau opted to leave the PGA Tour after securing eight wins for LIV in June 2022. Bryson's focus wavered at times and he opted for sideshow exhibitions with involvements with long drive competitions.

His game showed life in winning two LIV events in 2023 – doing so with a sensational 58 at the Greenbrier.

124th US Open at Pinehurst No.2

 

Prior to 2024 – DeChambeau's performances in the major events were limited to a top-ten finish at the 2022 Open Championship and a T4 at the 2023 PGA Championship.

His play at the biggest events this year has showcased a more focused player and one who relishes the engagement with fans. At the Masters he tied for sixth and at the PGA Championship he fought valiantly until the end before Xander Schauffele holed a final birdie putt at the closing hole to nail down a one-shot win.

It was at Valhalla that fans became clear vocal supporters. What's interesting is when DeChambeau was still a member of the PGA Tour fan reception then was hardly anything close to that.

Bryson addressed that following third-round play.

"Just thinking back three years ago, the landscape was a lot different. I tried to show everybody who I was. I didn't do it the right way and could have done a lot of things better.

"I'm lucky enough to have a great team around me to help me move in the right direction with the content that we're producing, social media, and then also just a great perspective on life.

"Those combination of things have allowed me to not only have a new perspective but an opportunity to show myself in a different light and to entertain the fans out there on the golf course."

As DeChambeau teed off during Saturday's round the chants from the assembled gallery were in unison shouting "USA, USA" as Bryson was paired with Sweden's Ludvig Åberg.

Bryson has been proactive in cultivating fan support with positive hand gestures to the gallery and a welcoming smile during pressure-packed moments.

DeChambeau elaborated that what happened in the past was not something he regretted but has learned from it.

"It's not a regret. It's a learning experience. I never regret anything in life. Do I not like what I did? Absolutely. But every moment that I live in this life, I'm always trying to learn from my mistakes.

"So, could you have called it a mistake? Sure. You can call it a bunch of things. But for the most part, the most important piece of it all is that you're growing and learning. You're growing from those moments."

Through 54 holes at this year's US Open, DeChambeau has displayed a well-rounded game. No question the prodigious tee shots remain front and center but his consistent dexterity with his short game and putter have brought to the forefront a very well-balanced golf game.

Bryson had his hip worked on during Saturday's play but he indicated that would not deter him from the goal in winning a second major title.

"Yeah, it was tougher to get through on a couple shots," DeChambeau said. "It's OK. I've had it for a long time now. It's just something that popped up. I've just been pushing myself a little bit, pushing the horse a bit. Consequently, that's going to happen. But I've got a great team around me to help fix some stuff up."

Bryson DeChambeau gets treatment on the 11th hole during the third round of the US Open
Bryson DeChambeau gets treatment on the 11th hole during the third round of the US Open (Mike Stewart/AP

When he won the US Open in 2020 much was expected of him but the 30-year-old is now showing what second acts can mean in the development of a professional career.

Some had written him off and tagged him "irrelevant" when elite level golf was discussed.

A second US Open title would provide Bryson with the ultimate last word on that topic. One can be assured his fans are ready to lend their support.

"Yeah, it was amazing," he said. "I can't thank them enough. It was a blessing. Man, they riled me up. It just gives me a spike in my adrenaline and allows me to focus more on delivering for the fans and for myself and for my family. It just inspires me."

Hold onto your seats folks and grab your popcorn the final round at Pinehurst will be one to watch.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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