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You knew Bryson DeChambeau had some devilish sorcery planned when he lined up his body at a 45-degree angle from where the markers on the fifth tee were pointing.
A couple of seconds later, golf’s destructive genius was launching perhaps the most blistering Exocet of his career, a 417-yard drive that left him just a short pitch into Whistling Straits’ second-longest par-five. Even for a man who has made the ridiculous look routine, it was a flourish of stunning audacity.
As a measure of the shot’s rarity, DeChambeau was 202 yards further up the fairway than fourballs partner Scottie Scheffler, himself one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour.
This extraordinary disparity owed much to the aerial route he had chosen across the lake, more treacherous than anyone else would dare attempt. But it also reflected his ferocious power.
The 27-year-old is in training for next month’s long driving world championship in Nevada, a title that on this evidence he is sure to collect.
While DeChambeau’s physique invites caricatures of Popeye-esque absurdity, his bulking-up has not been without purpose. As he illustrated here, he has developed the distance to pound courses such as this into submission. Yes, the Wisconsin crowds went wild, but his mighty heave was not just some extravagant party trick.
By shortening the hole so dramatically, he could stick his second shot within a foot of the flag, walking off with an eagle and a vital advantage in the US pair’s duel with Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.
DeChambeau has conjured similar feats before, not least when carving up Bay Hill’s iconic sixth hole earlier this year, with another 400-yard drive that sent the Florida fans into raptures. But this was prodigious even by his standards.
The ball had flown so far, into a place normally intended as a lay-up area for second shots, that the cameras initially had trouble finding it. When finally spectators understood what he had done, the sound was one of incredulous laughter.
Bryson DeChambeau hits a sensational 417-yard drive off the tee! 🤯
Absolutely incredible! 🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/hnQVxfRoTy
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) September 24, 2021
Pete Dye’s 581-yard dogleg-right, framed by a marshy conservation area beside Lake Michigan, was designed to strike fear into the hearts of those who tackled it. But the great designer, who died last year, reckoned without the arrival of a muscular phenomenon determined to redraw his sport’s limits.
Surrounded by high fescue grass and a large expanse of water, DeChambeau thought only of propelling a drive into the next zip code.
He sensed the strike was perfect the moment it left the clubface. With a short yelp, a roll of the shoulders, he was walking after his ball before any US fans understood where it was about to land.
These are the pyrotechnics that broadcast companies pay to witness, and DeChambeau’s missile will be replayed in perpetuity. “Absurd,” one commentator said. “Absolutely roasted,” said another.
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) September 24, 2021
DeChambeau might not be to the taste of many purists, or even of his team-mate Brooks Koepka, but it is impossible to take your eyes off him. After he was rested for foursomes, the murmurs of anticipation grew louder as he appeared on the first tee.
There has been much talk this year about his failures to shout “fore” when his drives go wildly astray, and the debate was revived here as his first swipe with the driver connected painfully with a female fan’s leg. Not that it derailed him: he gave the woman a signed ball and duly rebounded with a birdie.
The attraction of following him is the near-certainty that you will glimpse the good and the ugly in the space of a few minutes. DeChambeau’s pluck at the fifth was as stirring a Ryder Cup sight as you will see, a confirmation that the Americans were hell-bent on bombarding Europe with everything they had.
Having watched Scheffler take the safe approach, he inflicted maximum punishment on his ball, generating such astounding speed that he almost took off with his follow-through.
Not for nothing has DeChambeau broken his own record for driving-distance average this year, at 323.7 yards. Back at his Texas ranch, he is dreaming up ever more devilish ways to attract a wider audience to golf. He said this week that he would be satisfied if he registered a ball speed in excess of 200mph. But these are niche details, imperceptible to the naked eye.
What even a casual observer can appreciate is the spectacle of a ball bludgeoned with unprecedented savagery. On this front, the game’s most divisive figure is delivering in abundance.