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Bryson DeChambeau – the undisputed professor of the play-for-pay game and someone who endlessly seeks answers to all of life’s mysteries, both large and small – can’t fully quantify the notion of luck.
It’s a bounce here, a slip there, a poor shot that ends up with a good result, or a good shot that ends up with a poor result.
But the thing is DeChambeau has no interest in cliches and following an eventfully wretched final day at the U.S. Open he’s had time to seek his peace.
“Just luck,” he shrugged Wednesday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic where he’s the defending champion.
DeChambeau is many things but succinct isn’t one of them. “Just luck” is what the 15-handicapper says to his buddies when he lips out his third consecutive 3-footer. It’s not what the world’s sixth-ranked player with an advanced case of need-to-know says following a major meltdown.
The broad strokes of that final round at Torrey Pines are clear enough. DeChambeau started the day tied for fourth place and just two shots off the lead. He left Southern California following a closing 77 – which included nines of 33 and 44, with the latter featuring a quadruple bogey-8 – and tied for 26th place, some nine shots behind champion Jon Rahm.
Most would sum up that final-round collapse easily enough – yuck. But DeChambeau’s mind doesn’t work like that. He wants answers. He craves answers. But on this day there are none.
“Okay. I mean, I slipped on 13. Everybody was apparently slipping on 13 and I didn't know that. I slipped two days in a row, then got in a bad lie, which you're expecting, it's the U.S. Open, but it's a part of life,” DeChambeau attempted to explain. “I could have hit it 5 more feet to the right across the cart path and gone for the green. And then a streaker, that was fun.”
There was a slip. There was a streaker (although technically the hooligan was clothed). There was no shortage of bad lies to go around on the South Course. It’s what the USGA wanted for their championship.
Maybe all that is bad luck or maybe it’s just golf.
The ancients call it the rub of the green but the notion hasn’t changed. Bad bounces are a part of golf, particularly golf at the highest level. DeChambeau knows this better than anyone. At last fall’s COVID-19 delayed U.S. Open there were plenty of bounces that went the big man’s way at Winged Foot.
“I mean, On 14 I hit it left into a dead spot where the pin was left as well. I was kind of on an upslope and I was trying to hit it 20 feet past but I chunked it. It came out dead just on the front edge and trickled to 10 feet and I made the 10-footer to have a flip flop again with Matthew [Wolff] to give myself a four-shot advantage,” DeChambeau said. “You're going to need those to win. Every golf tournament has that. People don't realize how much luck plays a big factor.”
Some will hear DeChambeau’s words as complaining but that’s an oversimplification. He’s not making excuses or shaking his fist at the golf gods. He’s simply stating what is, at least in that large and busy brain of his, his facts.
He played well enough to win the U.S. Open but the bounces didn’t go his way. We all like to think the bounces even out, but they rarely do and for someone like DeChambeau, who craves answers, dismissing the outcome to fate is about as challenging as it gets.
It would be easier for DeChambeau to conjure some sort of scientific reasoning for his awful back nine at Torrey Pines. The barometric pressure dropped unexpectedly, the composite in his metal spikes broke down because of the elevation, whatever the reason it would be easier than coming to the wild conclusion that luck simply wasn’t on his side.
We want our stars to come without excuses and to some, DeChambeau’s hypothesis that luck wasn’t on his side at Torrey Pines will sound like an excuse. The truth is that for someone like DeChambeau admitting that you can’t always control the outcome is the ultimate ownership.