With the 2020 U.S. Open being pushed from June to September, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USGA had three extra months to make Winged Foot Golf Club extra diabolical. They succeed… for 143 of the 144 players in the field.
Bryson DeChambeau posted Sunday’s only under-par round, a 3-under 67, to cap off a championship performance that saw only him finish in red figures, at 6-under. His first major championship was a six-stroke romp over 21-year-old Matthew Wolff. DeChambeau actually trailed Wolff by two through 54 holes, but snagged the solo lead on the fifth hole and never relinquished.
DeChambeau now arrives at Torrey Pines, hoping to become the next back-to-back U.S. Open champion.
“Almost a year. I wish I would have had it for a year,” said DeChambeau, noting he won his maiden major title about nine months ago, in September.
“But I’m blessed to have won this championship, and I think that from my perspective, touring it around a little bit, taking it to fun places and having some fun with it was great.
“I was nice enough to bring it back in good shape, no dinks, no dents, so that’s what I was proud about.
“Hopefully, I can take it back again this week.”
Since that win, which was the seventh of the 27-year-old’s career, DeChambeau added an eighth tour title, taking March’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Currently fifth in the world rankings, he has six top 10s in 14 2021 starts, with the two aforementioned victories, in addition to a T3 at THE PLAYERS Championship, the week after winning the Arnold Palmer.
Nothing about DeChambeau’s length and power look remotely mortal, but his results have dropped off since THE PLAYERS. In those last six starts, he has four results of 38th or worse, with a T18 at The Memorial two weeks ago. The other was an impressive T9 at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he flew from Charlotte to Dallas after believing he had missed the cut, only to need to charter a late flight back.
Asked to compare his current form to his wins at Bay Hill and Winged Foot, DeChambeau said, “It’s about the same. It’s about in the same area.
“Hopefully, I worked on something today that I feel a lot more confident with. So hopefully, I’m a little bit in a better position than I was at Winged Foot and Arnold Palmer.
“Again, you’ve just got to putt well out here. These greens, I didn’t grow up on poa annua, per se; I was in the central valley, played on perfect bent greens.
“Coming over to the west coast or the coastline, it was always a little more difficult with poa annua.
“As I’ve started to putt better, with SIC technology in the face, my putters and what I’m doing with arm lock, it’s just helped me be more confident.
“I have had success on the West Coast with poa annua, obviously, PGA last year. I’m getting more comfortable on the greens. If I can stay comfortable, I’ll contend this week hopefully.”
As usual, his game has been well-rounded, as he ranks no worse than 54th in any of the six strokes gained categories. He leads the Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: total, and is third in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
DeChambeau believes his length off the tee will be a “tremendous” advantage once again.
“I think so. If I have over 190 mile-an-hour ball speed, it’s going to be tremendous out here covering bunkers and whatnot,” said DeChambeau when asked about his advantage with tee balls.
“But again, sometimes the bunkers are good to be in out here, though, I will say that. They’re in really great condition, and the rough lies can be treacherous sometimes. It really depends what type of lie you get.
“I really don’t know if bunkers or rough is better, but for sure just getting it as close as I can to the green is going to be a strategy of mine.”
If Bryson is going to accomplish a successful championship defense, he will not only need to play better than he has recently, but he may need to drown out distractions, mainly a four-time major distraction in sudden rival Brooks Koepka.
The two have traded barbs on social media, mainly with Koepka as the aggressor. They have had tension in the past, but it was accelerated when a clip aired of Brooks rolling his eyes as DeChambeau walked by in an interview.
“I think it’s fun. There’s a point where it’s great banter,” said DeChambeau.
“I personally love it. I think that, as time goes on, I hope on the weekend we can play against each other and compete. I think it would be fun and would be great for the game.”
The feud has reached the point where spectators had to be removed from The Memorial for yelling “Brooksie!” at DeChambeau.
Koepka offered those spectators beer.