On Saturday night, when Golf Channel showed video of Bryson DeChambeau hitting balls under floodlights, Mike Schy chuckled as the “Live From” hosts made a big deal of his longtime pupil’s devotion to getting better.
That’s nothing. Schy, who began coaching DeChambeau at age 12, has watched him do Rocky Balboa-type workouts. There was the time after DeChambeau failed to earn his PGA Tour card in 2016 playing on sponsor exemptions and had nearly a month to kill before the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs began. DeChambeau arrived back home at the Mike Schy Golf Performance Institute headquartered at Dragonfly Golf Club in Madera, California, and declared he wasn’t going to hit a ball for three weeks but rather was going to revamp his swing plane by spending at least 4 hours a day on the “Schy Circle,” a swing plane training device engineered and built by Schy, until his hands bled.
“He did it for three weeks, alternating between swinging a heavy rod and a golf club. He put a cover over the range balls. If he wasn’t going to hit range balls, guess what, no one else was going to either,” Schy recalls. “Who else would do that? Hitting a golf ball is a drug and a fix for him, and to give up his fix and make his motion what he wants it to be, well, Bryson is obsessive-compulsive. You can’t stop him. If it means going all night, he’ll go all night. He’s always been that way. His modus operandi is, ‘I’m going to go to the range until I’m comfortable and then we can go play Fortnite.’ ”
The coda to this story: DeChambeau won the DAP Championship, the first Korn Ferry Tour playoff event, and was off and running en route to winning the 120th U.S. Open on Sunday at Winged Foot.
The truth is, it would’ve been a story if Bryson hadn’t beat balls after Saturday’s third round under floodlights.
“I told everybody on Thursday that he would win,” Schy says shortly after DeChambeau holed out for a final-round 3-under 67 and six-stroke victory over Matthew Wolff. “Bryson called me on Tuesday and told me he’d figured something out, not to tell me thanks for the help because that doesn’t happen, but he found something and I watched him play the first three holes and I knew he was going to win.”
Mike Schy with an assortment of his homemade gadgets and training aids. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)
Schy watched the broadcast from home as DeChambeau validated all their hard work. He considered flying to New York before the final round but there were too many hoops to jump through in the age of coronavirus. While Schy has taken a backseat in recent years to instructor Chris Como, who is based at Dallas National Golf Club, where DeChambeau practices when he is home, Schy remains one of his closest confidants and their journey from Schy’s tent, where he has hundreds of gadgets and training aids, to major winner has been one strange trip.
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) September 20, 2020
“When he was 12-13 years old, he was spending every waking hour with me at the tent. I’d never had anyone like him or at quote ‘that level,’ ” Schy says. “Even at an early age, we were talking swing theories that he wanted to try and test. That was an element that was important to our journey. Decisions and choices have consequences so there could be some bad golf. As long as he was willing to accept that, we could experiment and cross some things off.
“When we went to one-length clubs and a one-plane swing, everyone thought we were super-crazy, not just crazy. They said it wasn’t going to work, he wasn’t going to get a golf scholarship, but the more we went down the rabbit hole, the more it was making sense and you could see how accurate he was becoming and the control he gained over the ball. It was a lot of work and I always tell him don’t discount all the work you’ve done.”
Schy always knew DeChambeau was capable of achieving extraordinary results in professional golf and encouraged him to do it his way. But he also warned him that marching to the beat of his own drummer would bring with it a host of doubters.
“We were in a car in L.A. and talking about the future and I told him, you have to understand one thing: you could be the No. 1 golfer in the world, win several PGA Tour events, win a major, maybe even two, and people are going to still think you’re crazy – that this doesn’t work, whether it is the clubs, your swing, your mannerisms, they’re going to be doubters,” Schy says. “I told him, I’m a Golfing Machine instructor. There are 13 million swings so pick one and trust it’s the right way for you. You have to own this 100 percent because there are going to be people who are going to crap on you every day. And they did. There have been rough times, but that’s all part of the journey.”
Even now that DeChambeau has achieved the ultimate validation in winning a major, Schy doesn’t expect DeChambeau’s triumph to inspire a revolution of followers rivaling that of Tiger Woods winning the 1997 Masters. Not immediately, anyway. It will take time for DeChambeau’s principles to be accepted.
“Do I think it will change? I do. I think people will view what he’s done and say I need to evaluate it. Even after today, they’re probably going to say, eh, that worked for him but that’s it,” Schy says. “There will eventually be a groundswell and it will happen over time.”
Schy still isn’t sold on the DeChambeau diet and the way he has bulked up, but he trusts DeChambeau’s team of experts who treat him like the elite athlete that he is.
“He’s a beast when he works out,” Schy says.
Hitting bombs was always part of the plan. “We used to say that we want to be like Jack Nicklaus. We want to hit it to the moon and have it land soft,” Schy says.
But he argues that’s not what has made DeChambeau into a major champion. Schy says DeChambeau has become such a dramatically better putter. He remembers the time in January 2018 when DeChambeau snapped his putter and dragged it behind his car to teach it a lesson after a particularly frustrating performance at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“I don’t know if I ever believed that he would be one of the best putters in the world,” he says.
At an early age, Schy recognized that DeChambeau’s inquisitive mind was one of his greatest assets. He’s never been afraid to go down a rabbit hole, test something new and different, and challenge the status quo.
Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and now Bryson DeChambeau.
DeChambeau joined that esteemed fraternity on Sunday with a performance for the ages.
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) September 21, 2020
“He’s been that way since he was a kid,” Schy says. “For him, the more numbers he has the better he feels. Give him 100 numbers and he’s happy. Give him 1 and tell him you’re not sure about the others and he’d rather shoot you. People don’t understand that about him. It’s about feeling comfortable. For him the more information he has, the better he feels.”
As for DeChambeau’s many quirks, Schy shakes his head and says, “We call it the Bryson Way.”
Now, the Bryson Way is major-championship proven. Validating? Sure. But the mad scientist is far from done shaking things up. He’s already talking about a 48-inch driver and adding more bulk to his frame. He’s going to continue to tinker and pursue greatness; that, too, is the Bryson Way.
“We’re still crazy, just remember,” Schy says.
They wouldn’t have it any other way.
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