US Open 2022: The Bryson phenomenon is over | Golf News and Tour Information
BROOKLINE, Mass. – Despite all the noise he had made, it was awfully quiet. Initially, this was due to the Boston faithful taking Friday morning off after a grueling Thursday night as their beloved Celtics failed to advance to the NBA Finals. This was quickly refuted, however, as crowds could be seen gathered around other holes and shouts and cheers heard from other corners of the course. In this case, the simplest theory turned out to be correct: the player who had mattered so much suddenly didn’t matter much anymore.
“Wait, is that Bryson DeChambeau?” one fan asked another as DeChambeau lined up a putt on the fourth hole. “I didn’t know he was here.”
Bryson is here. A pair of 71s over two days at the US Open will keep him here for two more days.
But the Bryson phenomenon is over.
IT WAS THAT TIME two years ago, DeChambeau’s physical transformation — a conceptually ambitious and aesthetically shocking transformation — in pursuit of more distance became the sport’s preeminent storyline. He took part in the first three events of the tour in return for his three-month pandemic sabbatical and won the fourth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. A month later he made his first top 10 at a major tournament with T-4 at the PGA Championship, and a month later he won the US Open at Winged Foot. It was seen not just as a personal triumph, but as a paradigm shift that left the game as a whole with giddy resignation. When fans returned in 2021, DeChambeau was the main draw, his performance a spectacle in every sense of the word.
However, not all advertising is wanted advertising. DeChambeau’s play took precedence over his personal feud with Brooks Koepka which spun out of his control. He was nine holes away from defending his US Open crown at Torrey Pines, only to stumble home with a comeback nine 44. Then DeChambeau’s caddy quit on the eve of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he ripped his equipment at the Open Championship, had to withdraw from the Olympics after testing positive for COVID, made an ill-informed statement about vaccination and launched a media protest after his statement was ridiculed. Nonetheless, he stole the show at the Ryder Cup, did better than expected in a long road tournament, and got on well with Koepka, at least nice enough for the two to win a hefty paycheck for a Thanksgiving display.
Going into 2022, DeChambeau was arguably the sport’s second-greatest needles player behind a certain 15-time Major winner. His performance, along with a perpetual gravitational pull for oddities large and small, made it impossible not to have an opinion on who he was or what he was trying to do. If you had a conversation about golf, you would end up talking about DeChambeau.
But that was then and this is now. And now, well, now DeChambeau seems like an afterthought.
It may sound cruel, but despite all the talk that has surrounded and sparked the burly man over the past two years, DeChambeau has been largely ignored at Brookline. Theoretically, part of that could come from his crisis, with a capital S. It is a performance correlated with injuries, a tear in the labrum of the left hip and a hairline fracture in the left hand, surgery on the latter forcing him to leave the PGA Championship. Still, DeChambeau hasn’t beaten par since January and hasn’t made a cut in a full event since August. If there’s any solace to be found, it’s that he doesn’t have to worry about the cut line any longer.
Last week, DeChambeau, after repeatedly denying rumors that he was defecting to LIV Golf, defected to LIV Golf, reportedly for a nine-figure signing bonus. In an interview recorded earlier this week, DeChambeau called it a “business decision,” a move that means he’s suspended from the PGA Tour and puts his future in major championships in question. Following that controversial decision, in a rare public appearance at a tournament he won with such fanfare less than two years ago, it would seemingly portend a greater spotlight on the actor who dominated the golf scene for two consecutive years. Instead, he’s only been a supporting character.
DONATE TO BOSTON FANS this: DeChambeau was treated well by those at Brookline, at least compared to the vitriol he faced in a post “Brooksie” world.
After DeChambeau on Friday morning, it would be hard to explain to an outsider that the man in the Hogan cap was one of the most controversial figures in the game. There were plenty of “Let’s go Bryson!” cries, and to almost all of them he answered with a nod. When fans held out their hands for a clap on the way to the tee box, DeChambeau would clap them back. On the seventh green, a kid waved at Bryson and Bryson responded. These answers sound simple and they are, but there is something to be said to let galleries know they are being heard. Yes, there were a few goons, but there always are goons, and even then those cat squeals were mostly silly (“Hey Bryson, do the math right!”) than malicious. There has been no mention of his decision to join the fledgling circuit which threatens to tear the professional game apart.
Again, perhaps part of that reception stems from the fact that there weren’t many people to receive it.
DeChambeau was grouped with Gary Woodland and Justin Rose, and for the most part they were left to fend for themselves. Fans instead turned to the super couples of Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka and Cam Smith and Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau. A good contingent remained enthralled by the return of prodigal Phil Mickelson. Some fans just wanted to walk the course, whoever was inside the ropes be damned, and the few times the band had a decent following, it was because they got to a hole where the fans camped out, unaware of the golf being played in front of them. .
The thing is, Bryson played well. He did little to put out strong, positive reactions, missing a handful of achievable birdie looks. But birdies are rare at the US Open, and equally valuable is keeping the bad at bay. Aside from a double bogey hiccup in the fourth, DeChambeau did what he had to do to stay in the proceedings. After the morning wave, DeChambeau was tied for 45th, but he’s also just five strokes off the lead. For the third year in a row, DeChambeau will start the weekend with a chance at the US Open.
But fan sentiment goes beyond the score, and the fact that so few were there to watch it affirmed a harsh but indisputable truth. There are dozens of big name attractions this week at the Country Club. DeChambeau is simply not one of them.
It’s a little hard to fathom that the man who sparked a one-man revolt against the standards of the game is now working in silence. Maybe the distance was a novelty. Maybe after sucking in so much oxygen, the sport needs a second to breathe. Maybe fans don’t remember who they don’t see on a regular basis. Maybe they know he’s heading for the door and don’t care that he’s heading that way. Either way, once-revolutionary Bryson DeChambeau has become just another guy.
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