Bryson's renaissance at Pinehurst

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M. James Ward outlines how the "new" DeChambeau is a fan favorite and how his stirring final par to edge out Rory McIlroy is just the beginning.
Posted on
June 17, 2024
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

PINEHURST, NC. The return to storied Pinehurst No.2 for the fourth time in hosting the 124th US Open produced a scintillating back nine battle between Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy.

DeChambeau entered the final round with a three-shot lead over McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Mathieu Pavon.

The final round was a nerve-wracking contest as DeChambeau trailed McIlroy by two shots as he stepped onto the 13th tee.

From the 13th until the very end, it was DeChambeau making the key shots when called upon – most notably a sensational final par-save at the closing hole resulting in a one-shot winning margin over a bitterly disappointed Rory McIlroy who finished for the second consecutive year in the runner-up slot.

124th US Open at Pinehurst No.2

DeChambeau scored a final round 71 for a four-round total of 274.

For Bryson the win marked his second US Open title – the first coming four years earlier at Winged Foot but played without a gallery and in the September time frame because of the global pandemic.

This year's event featured massive galleries on hand who clearly demonstrated vocal support for DeChambeau throughout the round.

The Bryson of 2024 is a far cry from the insular and aloof player who first entered the pro golf scene in 2016. Now, one sees a 30-year-old refreshing to watch as he engages gallery member even when in the midst of a round.

His "new" personality and swing-for-the-fences style marks a stye of play reminiscent of such past stars as Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros.

While DeChambeau is known for his prodigious tee shots it was his carefully executed short game that propelled him to the championship title. That was clear during the final round when missing the green at the long par-4 8th. His ball needed to be lofted with great precision to the sloping green. Bryson got his ball onto the green and then rolled in the 20-foot putt to save his par. The emotional fist pump only ignited the crowd into a frenzy.

Time and again he showed an inner calm in maintaining needed focus during various pressure-packed moments – the most notable coming at the final hole where his tee shot found the left pesky native area that lines the fairways of the No.2 course.

DeChambeau could only advance the ball to a frontal bunker with his second shot. Facing a 55-yard shot he courageously played a marvelous shot to four feet and then sank the putt for the title.

“That bunker shot was the shot of my life,” DeChambeau said.

The totality of the moment brought forward an emotional release in becoming the 23rd golfer to have won at least two US Open titles.

“I don’t know what to think; it hasn’t fully sunk in yet,” said DeChambeau of his second US Open title. “I just want everybody to enjoy it, as well. As much as it is heartbreaking for some people, it was heartbreak for me at the PGA. I really wanted this one.

“When I turned the corner and saw I was a couple back, I said, ‘Nope, I'm not going to let that happen.’ I have to focus on figuring out how to make this happen. I was a little lucky. Rory didn’t make a couple putts that he could have coming in. I had an amazing up-and-down on the last. I don't know what else to say. It’s a dream come true.”

DeChambeau has been the most consistent player in the first three major events in 2024. At the Masters he finished T-6 and was edged out by Xander Schauffele by one shot at the PGA Championship. The win also established him as the first LIV Tour player to secure the US Open title.

Bryson's career went through periods of concern after he broke his hand in 2022. Recovery from such surgeries is never a certain thing and then there was his fascination with other golf diversions such as long-distance driving contests.

The bigger concern was whether DeChambeau could hone his clear talents for more consistent results in the most important events. His departure from the PGA Tour in 2022 to LIV meant a new alignment and his return to the winner's circle was delayed until 2023 when he won twice on that circuit – which included a score of 58 at the Greenbrier event.

Pro golf is littered with robotic figures who seem detached from those observing them. DeChambeau infused those watching him with his personality and desire to build a meaningful connection. The response back was present throughout the championship at Pinehurst.

DeChambeau spoke eloquently about one of his childhood idols - Payne Stewart. Stewart claimed his second US Open title 25 years ago at Pinehurst No.2, doing so with an equally impressive par save at the closing hole for a one-shot winning margin. Both Stewart and DeChambeau attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

Bryson DeChambeau cradles the US Open trophy
(George Walker IV/AP)

Stewart would tragically die in a plane crash just a few months after his epic 1999 victory. DeChambeau energized the championship in a manner similar to what Stewart did a quarter of a century ago.

Bryson displayed grit at one of the most renowned courses in the world in a reminder that no event is ever over until it's over.

Be forewarned - the new US Open champion is just getting started.

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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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