He came to Dubai in search of what he called an “international” victory, one that would underline his highest-ranking status in the field (fifth) for the 30th Omega Dubai Desert Classic. But there was also an inexorable quality to the manner in which Bryson DeChambeau went about his business at the Emirates Club. Second after the opening round, the 25-year-old Californian was tied for the lead after 36 holes, then one stroke in front with a round to play. Right from Thursday, it was clear he was the man to beat in the race for the $US541,660 first-place cheque.
For the record, DeChambeau closed with an eight-under par 64 that climaxed a record-breaking week in which 57 of the 75 qualifiers broke par on the final day. DeChambeau’s 24-under 264 is the lowest-ever for four circuits of the Majlis course at the Emirates Club, beating Haotong Li’s winning score from last year by a shot. And the winning margin of seven shots was one better than Ernie Els managed in 1994.
All of which was achieved by a man apparently at odds with his game for at least three-quarters of his maiden victory outside the United States. After his opening 66, DeChambeau claimed he was “not hitting it anywhere near my best”. On Friday, he “didn’t have the right sensations and proprioception [the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement] over shots” and felt “uncomfortable”. At the end of Saturday, the message had changed, but not much: “I’m just not 100 percent with my golf game.”
Still, by Sunday evening all was well. For DeChambeau this was a fourth win in his past nine worldwide starts, the other five all bringing top-20 finishes.
“Today I was happy with my game. I executed a lot of great shots,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work with my caddie, really grinding and trying to figure out how to take account of all the variables out there – air pressure, firmness values, mile-per-hour on the speed, putts and ball speed, spin rates. We’re trying to figure out as much as possible so I can be as successful as possible, and obviously it’s shown.”
Unfortunately, all of the above takes time. Too much time. Perhaps the only discordant note is how long it takes the ponderous DeChambeau to play. Second to putt on the 15th green, one-minute and 45 seconds passed before he hit, more than 60 seconds over the limit dictated by the rules. One hole later, his approach shot consumed one minute and 22 seconds. And even on the final green, he took more than a minute to strike his relatively meaningless putt for birdie.
As for the runner-up, Englishman Matt Wallace lucratively broke what had been a six-way tie for second place with the unlikeliest of closing birdies. Having carved his tee-shot miles right of the admittedly elusive fairway on the 549-yard par-5, he was still 165 yards from the putting surface after two shots. No problem. The approach comfortably flew the pond fronting the green before pulling up no more than four feet from the cup. And in went the putt.
“I actually drove it amazing, apart from that last tee shot,” he claimed. “I wanted to give it a go today. I really wanted to put some pressure on Bryson. But he was scoring so well. Credit to him. He’s played great today and is a worthy champion.”
Still, it was third-placed Sergio Garcia – alongside defending champion Li, Englishman Paul Waring, Ian Poulter and 2011 champion Alvaro Quiros – who perhaps best summed-up the week and the winner.
“Bryson played great,” said the former Masters champion and also the winner in Dubai in 2017. “He’s obviously feeling his swing very nicely. He’s got a lot of confidence going, which helps. And he’s putting unbelievable. When you’re doing those things, when you’re putting those things together, it’s usually a winning combination.”
Australia’s Lucas Herbert shared the 36-hole lead with DeChambeau before shooting three-under over the weekend to share seventh place at 15-under alongside countryman Jason Scrivener.