DeChambeau captures U.S. Open title

Hank Gola New York Daily News (TNS)
Bryson DeChambeau of the United States kisses the championship trophy in celebration after winning the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 20, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, NY.

They told Bryson DeChambeau he couldn't do it. They told him he couldn't make all his irons the same length. They told him he couldn't be that analytical. They told him he couldn't bulk up to 240 pounds. They told he couldn't bomb it everywhere.

Sunday, they weren't telling him anything - except where to stand to collect the U.S. Open trophy.

The 27-year-old shocked the golf world by running away with the championship, shooting a fourth-round 67, three better than the next-best score on another difficult scoring day. He was the only man to finish under par for the week - and he was way under par, six shots clear of it.

"I hope that inspires people to say, 'hey, look, maybe there is a different way to do it.'" he said. "Not everybody has to do it my way. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying in general that there are different ways to do things. If you can find your own way, find your passion - like Arnie said, 'Swing your swing.' That's what I do. That's what Matthew Wolff does. That's what Tiger does. That's what Phil does. That's what everybody does, and we're all trying to play the best golf we can."

Only a few of the greats have played this well on this tough a golf course.

No previous U.S. Open champ at Winged Foot had ever shot better than 74 in the fourth round or finished under par for the week - two more things that some thought would not be done this week. But no one ever had ever taken on Winged Foot like this, fearlessly hitting it as hard as he could, the five-inch rough be damned.

DeChambeau hit just 23 fairways all week, a record low for any winner since they started keeping the stat.

Asked what he would have said on Wednesday if told the champion would have that kind of driving week, Rory McIlroy said simply, "No chance. No chance."

"I don't really know what to say because that's just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does," the 2011 champion said. "Look, he's found a way to do it. Whether that's good or bad for the game, I don't know, but it's not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played. It's kind of hard to really wrap my head around it."

Matthew Wolff, the 21-year-old who took a two-shot lead into Sunday, basically had no chance to beat DeChambeau and make history as the youngest winner since Bobby Jones in 1923.

Wolff outdrove DeChambeau on the first hole and it was mostly downhill after that. He bogeyed two of the first five holes - the key opening stretch that sets the tone at Winged Foot - while DeChambeau birdied the fourth and just like that, DeChambeau had a lead he would only improve the rest of the way.

Wolff got his share of bad breaks and kept finding himself above the hole but by the back nine, his unique swing sped up and his edge was gone.

DeChambeau, meanwhile, never gave an inch. When Wolff hit his close for an eagle putt on nine, DeChambeau simply rammed in a 37-foot eagle putt of his own.

"That's when I first thought, OK, this could be reality," DeChambeau said. "I made long eagle putt and I shocked myself by making it, too, and I thought to myself, I could do it. And then immediately after, I said, 'nope, you've got to focus on each and every hole, and I just kept throughout the course of the back nine telling myself, 'Nope, we've got three more holes, we've got four more holes, we've got five more holes, whatever it was. I just had to keep focused, making sure I was executing every shot to the best I possibly could."

Wolff ended up shooting 75, which still left him even for the week, which would have won every other Open played here. His runnerup finish was his second top-five finish in the first two major starts of his career.

"I was just told that there's a lot of people in here saying what he's doing is pretty exceptional," Wolff said after a round of 75 that "To watch it firsthand, I have to agree. I feel like I played really well, and that's the difference out here between 4-over and 4-under _ just those little tiny breaks that I didn't get."

It could be said that DeChambeau made his own breaks, the same way he's been ignoring the skeptics. Sunday was the validation of it all.

"One hundred percent, no doubt," he said. "For me, it's about the journey of can I execute every shot more repeatably than everybody else? I was able to do that this week.

"So many times I relied on science, and it worked every single time."

They called him mad. Now they're calling him U.S. Open champ.