Bryson DeChambeau’s idiosyncratic approach to golf finally paid dividends at Winged Foot as he overwhelmed Matthew Wolff and cantered to a comfortable victory in the 120th US Open for his first major title.
DeChambeau snatched the lead at the seventh hole, erasing Wolff’s overnight lead, and then simply pulled away. And eagle at the ninth and birdie at the 11th left him as the only player on the final day to shoot under-par, as Wolff’s eagle at nine was simply a last futile gesture.
He finished with a 67 – the only under-par round on the final day – for a six-under total of 274, six ahead of Wolff in second place.
The 27-year-old Californian, who has tried to apply his interest in physics and engineering to his golf game, really turned the corner when he made the decision to bulk up during lockdown and concentrated on hitting the ball as far as possible.
Never a contender at the majors before, he finished in the top ten at the PGA Championship last month and simply outmuscled the much feared Winged Foot course, the infamous US Open rough being little distraction to him over the four days.
It took just five holes on Sunday for Wolff’s 54-hole advantage to be overhauled. Both the final pairing missed reasonable birdie looks at the first – a hole Rory Mcllroy had four-putted for double bogey just a half hour before and where Harris English, in the penultimate pairing, had lost his ball after a wide left tee shot.
The 21-year-old Wolff was the first to blink, wide left with his tee shot on the short third, and missing a 15-foot putt for par, while DeChambeau, who had missed a nervy five-footer at the first, made a good up and down from the edge of the bunker at the front right of the green.
Wolff’s lead was gone at the fourth, as DeChambeau made light again of a lie in the rough to get it to 15 feet and hole it for birdie, and although he was being comfortably outhit off the tee by Wolff, DeChambeau made a strong par out of the fairway bunker to take the lead as Wolff again bogeyed.
Bogeys at the eighth by both the final group might have given a sliver of encouragement to those battling to stay level for the championship ahead of them on the course, particularly Louis Oosthuizen and Xander Schaffele, but it was effectively a two-horse race after the last pair reached the first par five, the ninth.
Both smashed it on in two and DeChambeau had a perfect weight eagle putt from 30 feet, Wolff bravely following him in from 12 feet.
That surely meant that no-one other than the final two were going to win, and DeChambeau wasted no time in grabbing control.
Wolff was a little unlucky hanging on the edge of the left side bunker at the short 10th and conjured an escape holding halfway up the shaft, but he missed the 12 foot par putt while DeChambeau made a cautious par.
But the leader by two stretched it to three at the 11th, coming up short of the green but with the pin only four paces on, rolling in the birdie putt to gain a firm grip on the title.
DeChambeau reverted to conservative mode at 12 and 13, but Wolff didn’t make any dent in his advantage and the tournament was effectively over at 14, when he slightly opened the door with a wide-left tee shot and a short-siding himself in the approach.
But Wolff followed him down the bank off the tee, came up short and three-putted, while DeChambeau made a massive up and down, holing from 12 feet for par for a four-shot lead.
By this time Wolff had clearly folded under the pressure, being a little too vocal on himself as he lost ground. A double bogey at the 16th ended whatever was left of the contest and allowed DeChambeau to coast in to victory.
In front of them, McIlroy played solid par golf after his opening double but could make no charge on the leaders, and admitted to being surprised by the winner.
“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,” he said of the champion hitting just 23 of 56 fairways.
“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 just — it’s not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played.”
The best round other than DeChambeau’s was a par 70 from Dustin Johnson, and that was just good enough to get the World No 1 and pre-championship favourite into the top 10.
English, rightly frustrated that his first ball of the day couldn’t be found by the ball spotters, played highly creditable par golf after that and got up into a share of third with Louis Oosthuizen.