MAMARONECK, N.Y. – The anatomy of a major championship victory is almost always etched across a Sunday canvas, but for Bryson DeChambeau the path to glory started long before he teed off for the final round at Winged Foot.
The deep, esoteric dive into what makes Bryson, Bryson started years ago when the swing savant connected math to mechanics and started down his trailblazing rabbit hole. His most recent transformation dates back to last fall when he promised to return to the PGA Tour with a reinvented body and swing.
But it wasn’t the countless hours in the gym or secluded in swing coach Chris Como’s living-room-turned-swing-lab where he won the U.S. Open. It wasn’t even his closing 67 on Sunday, which was the lowest round of the day by three strokes, that delivered his first major championship.
If we’re drilling down to the essence of his victory the story begins and ends on Saturday when the temperatures dropped into the low-60s, the winds blustered to 15 mph and DeChambeau grinded.
With a swing that just wasn’t right, DeChambeau turned what should have been a 75 or worse into an even-par 70 that kept him within two strokes of 54-hole leader Matthew Wolff. Following a half-dozen media interviews, he marched to the range with his entourage in tow. It was dusk and getting colder and the crew manning the makeshift practice area turned on the floodlights.
With his caddie, Tim Tucker, and Como and a member of his management team huddled around, DeChambeau plowed through two buckets in his never-ending quest to solve the equation.
It was 7:35 p.m. ET and well past sunset when he started.
With a launch monitor tracking each shot because, well, it was too dark to see where he was hitting, DeChambeau, who would never be confused for Ben Hogan, followed the Hawk’s advice and dug the answers out of the dirt.
What he was looking for and what he found is difficult to say exactly, because DeChambeau speaks his own language.
“It's all about the governors for me,” he explained. “I have a limit to kind of what I do with the swing so I don't over-rotate. You can see I missed a lot of shots left this week. My left arm wasn't holding and being stable enough through impact. It was just rolling over. That's why I was drawing it and hooking it a little bit.”
OK, that’s digestible. Go on.
“I was still leading to where the face is way open to the target, and then I felt like I had to do that [rotate his arm] to close the face,” he said. “Once I straightened that out, got the face back a little more square, I felt like I could hold it off the whole way, and gave me so much comfort for the rest of the round.”
Como, who was bundled up against the autumn cold, had a slightly different take on how Saturday’s twilight session unfolded. For the soft-spoken biomechanical guru this was geometry.
“He was tilting back through the shot and everything was coming too much to the inside and putting him in a spot where he was almost drop-kicking it or he could have hit a fat shot,” Como explained. “In order to compensate that inclination of being able to hit a fat shot, he would make this move with his lead [left] arm and made the ball kind of fan right.
“He felt like he was going to struggle to miss it right, but he would end up hitting kind of a pull hook.”
At 8:15 p.m. ET, an hour after official sunset, DeChambeau and Co. packed up the launch monitors and shuffled toward the parking lot. If the Mad Scientist’s life is a collection of range sessions, count Saturday’s as a breakthrough.
To be clear, this is all relative when it comes to DeChambeau. He hit just 41 percent of his fairways for the week at Winged Foot, which had been billed as the church where bombers would have to repent for their wayward ways or suffer the consequences.
Sunday was hardly a driving clinic (6 of 14 fairways), but it was enough control for DeChambeau to pick the West Course apart.
Como said DeChambeau works harder than anybody on Tour, which is saying something from a guy who used to work with Tiger Woods, the ultimate grinder.
“On Saturday, when he didn’t hit it great and just scrambled, he came off the course and I was like, that was the round of a champion right there,” Como said. “The round where you really had to grind and fight for every shot, I told him, ‘This is the round of a champion.’”
It was actually the day of a champion, a workmanlike shift that’ll be lost in the instant analysis of how he bullied the ultimate major blueblood, but for DeChambeau the guts of a victory begins and ends on Saturday at Winged Foot with a gritty performance on the course and a tireless effort well into darkness.