There’s no such thing as an easy victory for Bryson DeChambeau, no matter how stress-free his closing 64 at the Dubai Desert Classic may have seemed.
The relentless grind has become his hallmark, and his tour de force in Dubai – his fourth win in his last nine worldwide starts – was emblematic of why he’s been able to crack the game’s upper echelon.
Consider that he was making his first start there since 2016, when he was stuck in amateur limbo, after leaving SMU early and waiting until the Masters to turn pro. So much has changed since then – his level of self-belief, his putting style, the Rules of Golf – but on the eve of this year’s tournament he recalled that in his prior visit there, he’d struggled on the greens. “I think we figured out why that is for this year,” he said, because of course he did. Because that’s what the Mad Scientist does: He identifies problems and solves them. (It had to do with the grain, he revealed Sunday.)
Listening to him all week, though, you’d never know that he was on the verge of a seven-shot blowout.
He shot 66 in the opening round and wasn’t satisfied: “I didn’t feel like I was hitting it anywhere near my best.”
He grabbed a share of the 36-hole lead but felt so uncomfortable that he practiced deep into the night, under the lights: “I didn’t have the right sensations and proprioception over shots.”
He moved one clear of the field heading into Sunday but still felt uneasy: “I’m just not 100 percent with my golf game right now.”
Even Sunday was laborious: He said that he was calculating variables like air pressure, firmness values, speed and spin rates during a near-flawless 64. No wonder a reporter on-site noted that DeChambeau took a minute and 45 minutes to survey his birdie putt on No. 15.
“We’re trying to figure out as much as possible so I can be as successful as possible,” he said.
He does this every week, all year, of course. The marathon range sessions with TrackMan. The putting practice with tablets and other gadgets. The post-round debriefs with his team.
Of the world-class players you’d most want to watch for 18 holes, DeChambeau would probably be near the bottom of the list. It’s exhausting watching him compute all of the permutations. But there’s no denying his results, and there’s no dissing his hustle, because he has an insatiable appetite for perfection in a sport in which perfection is unattainable, or at least unsustainable.
That pursuit of excellence doesn’t make DeChambeau unique, but it’s the depth to which he toils that is uncommon. In many ways he’s the opposite of stars such as Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, whose physical gifts are so awe-inspiring and obvious that it seems like they should win a few times a year just by showing up.
There’s no coasting with DeChambeau. His genius is in his process, squeezing every last bit out of his talent.
“No one outworks him, and now he knows he belongs and is one of the best in the world,” said his former college coach, Josh Gregory. “He will only work harder because of this.”
The worry for DeChambeau, of course, is that he’ll eventually work himself into the ground, but until then he’ll keep improving. Rapidly. He said that he’s only about halfway into his journey, that it’ll take another five years before he’s figured out 80 or 90 percent of what he seeks to test and ultimately prove.
“We’ll never figure out wind,” he said wistfully.
But you can bet that he’ll try.