DUBLIN, Ohio – Bryson DeChambeau lists physics as a special interest, describes his current swing theory as an exploration of the anatomical limits of the body and instead of a dream foursome he rattles off a list of physicist, including Albert Einstein, he’d like to meet.
But the 24-year-old from Modesto, Calif., didn’t need a physics degree, which he has, or a big brain to do this math – 72 holes plus another two frames in overtime equaled the biggest victory of his career.
DeChambeau, who began the day with a one-stroke lead at the Memorial, didn’t have his best finish, with untimely bogeys at Nos. 14 and 18, but his unique brand of cerebral golf delivered when it mattered, with a downhill 11-footer at the second playoff hole to defeat Byeong Hun An and claim his second PGA Tour title.
But if DeChambeau – who has been dubbed in Tour circles the “mad scientist” – is more contemplative than his fellow professionals, his victory at Jack’s Place should at least give all those curious onlookers a glimpse into his emotional side.
Throughout the course of a day that was expedited by the threat of severe weather, DeChambeau’s emotions, if not all the complicated inner workings of his swing, were there for the world to see.
He openly lamented poor shots – like his approach to the 72nd hole that sailed right and set up a three-putt bogey that led to the playoff – and confidently twirled his club when his approach to the same 18th green two playoff holes later settled 11 feet from the flag.
And finally he celebrated. He celebrated like a man with something to prove, not an equation to solve, when his walk-off birdie dropped on the 74th hole.
“That was a big celebration there,” laughed DeChambeau, who closed with a 71 for a 15-under total. “Just being able to make that 11-footer going, yes, I can do this, I can come in, clutch, when I'm not playing well, to be able to finish the job off.”
Part of that emotion was born from a desire to validate, to the world if not himself, his method of playing golf, which includes single-length clubs and a distinct approach to putting he calls “ZBL.” And part was fueled by the circumstances.
When DeChambeau set out at Muirfield Village there were nine players within five strokes of the lead, a list that included Tiger Woods, who for the first three days put on a ball-striking clinic.
Before DeChambeau even reached the first tee he had an idea of what kind of day it would be when Woods, who was playing two groups ahead of him, birdied the first hole to move to 10 under par, four strokes back.
Woods – who lead the field in strokes gained: tee to green, proximity to the hole and strokes gained: approach to the green – added another birdie at the fifth to narrow the gap even more.
Nothing went right for the five-time Memorial winner after that.
Woods finished the week 4 over par on Muirfield Village’s closing loop and for the fourth consecutive day lamented a putter that showed flashes of heating up but never really delivered.
“I just need to hit better putts. This week I didn't really have, didn't feel comfortable with my lines and my feel was a little bit off,” said Woods, who tied for 23rd after a closing 72. “But I hit it really good this week, so that's a positive going into [the U.S. Open], where ball-striking is going to be a must.”
Kyle Stanley didn’t have the same problem, rallying from five strokes down with five holes to play with birdies at four of his last five holes, a run that was only marred by a bogey at the last to finish tied with Dechambeau and An.
He wasn’t any better his second time down the 18th fairway, hitting his drive on a steep hill and advancing his next shot only 50 yards.
An, who matched DeChambeau with a par at the first extra hole, also struggled, pulling his approach well left on the second overtime hole. Although he hit his third shot to 2 feet, it wouldn’t matter. DeChambeau and science made sure of that.
Since DeChambeau joined the Tour in 2016 there have been some that have scoffed at his analytical approach to the game, those who have figured him to be too smart for his own good. But deep within that big brain – DeChambeau contends – is an artist.
“People think that all the stuff that I do is insane, it's crazy, there's a lot of variables that go along, but all we're trying to do is take the complex, which is this golf environment, and make it simple,” he explained. “Quantify it down to where I can say, all right, it's just a 155 [yard] shot. That's it.”
DeChambeau and Woods have become friends in recent months, regularly playing practice rounds together and discussing whatever golf savants discuss. For Woods, the mad scientist’s approach is more than a curiosity, it’s an appreciation.
“He is very analytical and it's his own thing,” Woods said. “You get guys that never want to know anything, like Bubba [Watson]. He just plays it straight by feel. He looks at it, hits it and doesn't know anything else. Then you get the other end of the spectrum and you have Bryson.
“This game, you can play it however you want to play it, as long as you have your own way and your own method and you're confident in what it does.”
DeChambeau explained that his method is an attempt to account for the vast number of variables a golfer will face during a round. Variables like the 7-footer for par, and victory, he faced on the 18th hole in regulation.
“It was a 7-footer, 2 1/2 percent slope, and I just said, all right, I've done this plenty of times. It's 3 1/2 inches up the straight putt and for me that's about 2 inches out on the right,” he explained.
Make no mistake, DeChambeau is a scientist, but maybe he’s not as mad as many think.