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Bryson DeChambeau is saying daft things and dreaming big: he is more important to golf than ever

Bryson DeChambeau of The United States roars with delight after making a birdie on the 18th hole during the final round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 19, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky
Bryson DeChambeau very nearly secured a second major championship at Valhalla - Getty Images/David Cannon

Bryson DeChambeau is back in the spotlight and is as barmy as ever. That much is certain after a week at the 2024 US PGA Championship that, at times, stretched incredulity to breaking point.

After the sight of world No 1 Scottie Scheffler posing in a prisoner’s uniform for a police mug shot, just a few hours before playing in the second round, the game needed a superstar to step into the centre of the stage and make the fans jaws’ drop for an assault on the golf course, not an officer.

And Bryson fitted the old bill perfectly.

Call him what you will – The Mad Scientist, The Incredible Bulk, LIV Golf rebel – but he came extremely close to being labelled “multiple major champion” in the gripping scenes in Valhalla on Sunday night.

In becoming the first man to shoot 20-under in one of the Big Four and somehow not get his hands on the trophy, DeChambeau pushed fellow American Xander Schauffele into forging history with his 21-under total, a new low mark in the majors.

Yes, Schauffele hoisted the silverware – and after that ice cool up-and-down from 50 yards for the title-winning birdie on the 18th, he was fully deserved in doing so – but DeChambeau was the supporting hero of the drama, raising his own reputation to its previously rapturous levels.

With everything that has unfolded in the last few years, with the LIV Civil War, the Tiger Woods car crash, the Rory McIlroy U-Turns and the staggering superiority of Scheffler, it has been easy to forget just how big an impact DeChambeau made before and during the pandemic. He was a one-man uprising who barged down conventions and sensibilities without a care.

His clubs were all the same length as he sought the single-plane swing; he sprayed his golf balls with water in practice to emulate wet conditions; he trialled the side-saddle putting method that the US Golf Association banned, along with the protractor he used on the yardage books to figure out the “true pin positions”.

And then, all that quantum physics mambo-jumbo gave way to the “freak show” period that saw him pile on almost three stone in a matter of months to send his driving distances to extraordinary lengths and so win the 2020 US Open in a hail of bombs. Extraordinary and unfathomable and as he went about his phantasmagorical business DeChambeau inevitably wound up the traditionalists and, with bizarre, self-congratulatory statements, ensured that even those with an offbeat streak were offended.

Remember when he said that for him Augusta was merely a “par 67”? That he would live to “140 years of age”? That  he was not sure whether he would take advantage of the new rule allowing golfers to keep the pin in while putting until he had measured the “coefficient of restitution of the flagstick”?

Remember when he tried to convince a referee to award him a free drop from an anthill because they were “dangerous animals”? Some believed this unique individual was a revolutionary, others that he was an exhibitionsit, but, on occasion, everyone seemed to agree he was a bit of a pillock.

In his feud with Brooks Koepka – ah, recall those simpler times – the overwhelming majority took the side of the jock instead of the nerd. DeChambeau was not marmite in the sense that he was not really to anyone’s taste, but nobody could call him boring or deny his box-office appeal.

Screengrab of Brooks Koepka, foreground, interview with GOLF MAGAZINE where Bryson DeChambeau, background, walks into shot
The Koepka-DeChambeau feud erupted in 2021

And then the landscape was changed irrevocably when LIV happened, and with an injury or two, DeChambeau’s celebrity diminished as his bank balance exploded with the £100 million signing-on fee. He could still command the odd headline - on the course shooting a 58 for his first win on the Saudi-funded circuit and off it, by revealing to Telegraph Sport that the medics had told him eat more vegetables or perish - but he was suddenly in the margins of a new circuit desperate to crack the mainstream audience.

So DeChambeau did what he did best - he innovated. He launched his own YouTube channel and with 90-plus videos has attracted more than 600,000 subscribers and racked up approximately 70 million views. As well as the online clinics, he has gone around easier courses filming himself trying to break 50. DeChambeau claims his audience are largely youngsters and he has unashamedly targeted the fresh generation, leaving behind the elder age groups who struggled to suffer him.

Except, they were in thrall at his display at Valhalla. His golf was spectacular as he conjured a final-round 64, but with DeChambeau it never was or is just about the stick and ball. His theatrics were captivating, his exaltations of disgust as riveting as his OTT fist-pumps and through all this chaos, DeChambeau ensured there was a viral moment for the kids to repost.

As he walked to the 10th tee, he tossed his ball to a child in the crowd, but it was caught by an adult who quickly strode away, no doubt in the attempt to get it on Ebay as fast as possible.

DeChambeau was not having it. He turned on his heels, used his club to point at the miscreant and loudly demanded the ball be returned to the intended target. The boy got his memento, the pro from Modesto, California got a brand overall as a member of the gallery shouted “man for the people”. This latest incarnation of DeChambeau is actually likeable.

Yet, with Big Bryson, there’s always a quote that threatens to ruin it. “I felt like I was playing with my ‘B Game’,” he said. His B Game! He recorded the second lowest total in the 164-year history of the majors and he asserts that, by his standards, there was so much left out there. Was this disrespectful to Schauffele?

DeChambeau did not intend it like that. He was simply back in his element, saying daft things and dreaming big thoughts. Following his sixth place at the Masters this month, this runner-up finish will see him stride to Pinehurst for next month’s US Open and from there to Royal Troon in July, with not only his confidence restored, but so, too, his fame.

It does feel different, however. We have learned to accept what DeChambeau is and what he will carry on being in this third coming. He will definitely engage, he might enrage and, now more than ever, the professional male game needs its great showman.

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