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DeChambeau Prevails at Pinehurst

by | Jun 18, 2024

In the end it was a battle of two giants at one of America’s hallowed halls of golf-Pinehurst No. 2. Bryson DeChambeau emerged victorious over a dejected and tragic Rory McIlroy who bogied 3 out of the last four holes including putts of 30 inches and 3 feet to succumb to the worst result of his storied career. DeChambeau and McIlroy outlasted and persevered over a field that had to be mentally and physically exhausted as Pinehurst doled out plenty of punishment over the course of this event.

McIlroy looked like he was finally going to break through from his major championship victory drought as he executed great tee shots in the fairway and iron shots that presented  multiple birdie opportunities. His putter which has been muted in past majors came alive and he moved to 8 under par to take a two shot lead on the 14th hole. Par golf over the final four holes would have produced no worse than a playoff opportunity and perhaps an outright victory. DeChambeau had been steady for the first three days particularly with stupendous tee shots that were over 350 yards in the fairway. On the back nine, the driver left him as he found himself in the right rough, perhaps with a little kink in his swing. When you swing as hard as Bryson, a quarter inch deviation with that swing speed can produce uncertain results and he found the scrub continuously on the back nine. When Rory took the lead on 14, it seemed the raucous enthusiasm for Bryson seemed to fade and the game started to speed up. He would miss a 3 foot putt for par and found himself two shots behind McIlroy with four holes to play. It took a tremendous amount of discipline and courage to slow things down, concentrate and stay in it as he holed a remarkable 16 foot putt for par on 15 to stay close. The grind would continue as the course offered no relief. His tee shot on 17 held the green and he converted the treacherous downhill putt for par. It all came down to the final hole.

McIlroy who had driven the ball flawlessly all day decided to take another smash, and his ball ended up in the right hand rough-123 yards from the hole. He grabbed an 8 iron but the lie was uneven and would be impacted by the grass as he would be left with another trick shot from the front of the green. The shot seemed reasonable but went by the cup by 3 feet forcing a tricky but very makable ending but the putt rimmed away and there went another major. The bogey marked a complete collapse from the two shot lead that he held just 4 holes ago. DeChambeau also decided to take a mighty rip on the 18th and he completely overcooked it coming across and down the left side under a tree. The tree would impact the length of the back swing and is one of the most difficult shots in golf, and under US Open conditions, the pressure is geometric. Anything could happen to this ball, Bryson muscled a 6 iron mindful of the tree out of the scrub into a bunker-55 yards from the hole. He would now face a shot even more difficult than the last one with the US Open victory on the line if he could get up and down. He managed a remarkable long bunker shot and made it stop on the green four feet below the hole. The four footer was good and victory was his. DeChambeau had embraced the crowd as if they were participants in his quest for victory and he broke out with an enormous burst of emotion as well he should. McIlroy sat in the clubhouse watching his end on TV and turning away after his awful miss, which for me, evokes the memory of Scott Hoch missing  a two foot putt at the Masters to eventually succumb in a playoff with Nick Faldo. Hoch would never contend for much ever again, but McIlroy has to come back from this. He is still one of the best players on the planet and his play was great this week. I don’t even believe that the gods of golf had a hand in his defeat…it’s just awful and will require significant healing from this wound.

For three days, the field was in complete grind mode pounding the fairways, smashing shots out of wispy hellish rough and trying to position approach shots to hold greens and prevent those shots rolling off the mounds of Pinehurst. The USGA set up the course perfectly. You would have to make three precise shots to make birdies here and par would be the standard. You would have to deal with the pace of the greens that either would force balls off the greens or slide off greens to chipping areas of 20-30 yards. If you didn’t have this type of chipping expertise in your bag in competition-you were not going to make par and touring pros generally do not experience these shots in other tour venues.

DeChambeau’s press conference was truly magnanimous as he is becoming a true diplomat for the professional game, which is something that is sorely needed. He certainly demonstrated empathy for McIlroy stating that he wouldn’t wish anyone to miss a short putt in a major championship. His triumph, while emotional, was not bombastic and demonstrated a healthy dose of humility and credit to his support infrastructure. McIlroy did not talk to the press after the event, and of he was criticized for it by the voracious pundits of professional golf. He should not be faulted as he should be given the time to properly reflect on what happened and his plans going forward. It would be great to see him bounce back at the Open Championship at Troon in a few weeks to put all of this in the rear view mirror for good.


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