Bryson DeChambeau leaned forward in his chair inside the Trump National Doral clubhouse recently like he leans into his tee shots, managing to produce a sense of momentum while sitting down.
It has been a challenging year for DeChambeau, not just because of his controversial move to LIV Golf but with the passing of his father, Jon, who died last week at age 63 after a long, difficult battle with kidney disease.
Surgery, personal pain, physical pain, a lawsuit, public criticism. Hardly a recipe for success.
“It’s not been smooth seas. I think the seas are smoothing out for sure. They were pretty rough this year with injury and movement, but they are now smoothing out,” DeChambeau said, days before his father’s passing.
“Is it going to be all rainbows and butterflies? No. There will be times when there are some sticky situations for sure. But I’ve matured more as a person because of it and I have a better world view on things.”
Two years ago, DeChambeau was seen as the most transformative golfer since Tiger Woods, having married muscle with a mindset intent on creating a new golf matrix.
When DeChambeau won four times in 2018, it felt like the arrival of a new force in the game. When he bludgeoned wicked Winged Foot into submission in his 2020 U.S. Open victory, DeChambeau’s performance suggested brute strength could more than offset thick rough and narrow fairways.
Fascinated by long-drive specialists and believing he could make sledgehammer power successful on the PGA Tour, DeChambeau almost literally grew into golf’s incredible hulk. He became part curiosity, part cartoon and a major champion along the way.
But as the shadows lengthen on 2022, DeChambeau finds himself caught between what he was and what he can still be. An eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, he jumped to LIV and finished inside the top 10 just once in six starts against 48-player fields.
DeChambeau’s biggest professional moment this year came when he finished runner-up in the Professional Long Drivers’ Association world championship earlier this fall. A sideshow to some, DeChambeau loves the strength and science of trying to smash a golf ball as far as possible. And it was a reminder he is wired differently from most of his competition.
“I feel like I’m trending upward and making progress on things I had in 2018 when I won four times with the speed I have now. I’ve done things with equipment that has helped me recoup some of those feelings and sensations I had.” – Bryson DeChambeau
Battling left wrist and hip issues, DeChambeau took seven weeks off in the spring following post-Masters wrist surgery.
“I feel like I’m trending upward and making progress on things I had in 2018 when I won four times with the speed I have now. I’ve done things with equipment that has helped me recoup some of those feelings and sensations I had,” he said.
“I don’t feel I’m in a stuck place right now. I feel like I’m in a more progressive place with my game.”
DeChambeau has never been satisfied with the status quo. Whether it’s playing one-length irons, adopting a putting stance that looks like his arms are taped to his torso or pounding protein shakes in order to pound tee shots, he has followed his own path.
It’s what led him to LIV Golf, where he is rumored to have received a nine-figure signing bonus. DeChambeau was an early advocate of the new league, pushing for change in the game.
His decision to leave the PGA Tour for LIV made him a villain to some, a maverick to others.
“I’m impressed with how far it has come in a short amount of time. Is everything perfect? No, but that’s any startup business,” he said prior to LIV’s final event of its inaugural season.
“I’m now a part of 12 companies and not one of them has started out perfect. There’s always going to be growing pains in anything.
“I didn’t think it would be this easy transitioning over. I’ve been very pleased with how this has progressed.”
There is also the matter of a lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Along with Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein, DeChambeau remains a plaintiff in LIV’s federal antitrust case. Several other players, including Phil Mickelson, withdrew their names from the suit.
In DeChambeau’s case, he said it is about getting what he believes is owed to him – the second half of a $3.5 million bonus he earned by finishing fifth in the PGA Tour’s first Player Impact Program rankings. He received the first half of his payment in February but not the second $1.75 million because the tour argues he did not meet the requirements.
The sticking point is said to be a required appearance at a tour charity event. DeChambeau has argued he wanted to attend a charity event, but the tour had suspended him for joining LIV.
“One of the main reasons I am in the lawsuit is because they haven’t paid me the second half of the PIP money. That’s the reason I am in it,” DeChambeau said.
“I would have gladly (gotten out) if they had taken care of it. We asked them and they said no. There are ramifications to that procedure and process on their own end which is fine. I’m willing to go through that discovery process.”
“In life there is a lot of hypocrisy and I just hope we can be on a level playing field and take information from both sides …” – Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau is smaller than he was but he can still be called Bryceps. His search for a better way is ongoing, even if this year had more roadblocks than previous years.
It has been a difficult year and his social media message announcing his father’s passing offered a window into his world. He wasn’t the mad scientist, just a guy heartbroken by the loss of his father.
As for joining LIV, DeChambeau sounded philosophical on the eve of the finale in Miami.
“Every player is really happy out here,” DeChambeau said. “In life there is a lot of hypocrisy and I just hope we can be on a level playing field and take information from both sides and make their own decision. If they come to the conclusion that this is not what they like, that’s totally fine.
“If you really take all of the information and you make the decision that’s best for you, and I’m talking about every single fan, whether they like the PGA Tour … you can like both of them, too. What’s the problem with that?”
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