Rumours of the wreckage have been greatly exaggerated.
That was Bryson DeChambeau’s message at his pre-Ryder Cup press conference this morning, when he addressed a Golf.com story that quoted him as saying his hands were “wrecked” from two-a-day preparations for the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championships, which begin Monday in Mesquite, Nevada.
“So when I had some blisters on my hands and wrecked my hands,” he said, using air quotes around “wrecked” to suggest perhaps a slight exaggeration, “that was before the FedEx Cup Playoffs. That was that Friday before is when it happened. The story came out later – I was talking about it and how badly my hands hurt after that because of how much effort I was putting into it. I played pretty well during the FedEx Cup Playoffs.”
Indeed, he did. DeChambeau finished T-31 at The Northern Trust before losing an epic playoff duel to Patrick Cantlay at the BMW Championship. He entered the Tour Championship third in the points race – meaning he started the staggered scoring week at seven-under, three off the lead – and finished in solo seventh.
DeChambeau enters his third professional team event – one Ryder Cup, one Presidents Cup under his belt – in solid form. But that was also the case in each of his past two Team USA appearances, and neither of those went particularly well for the 27-year-old. DeChambeau finished 0-3 at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National and 0-1-1 at Royal Melbourne in the 2019 Presidents Cup.
Mind you, he’s a different man and a different player this time around, almost 15 kilograms heavier on the physical scale and weighed down on the emotional one by being at the centre of umpteen controversies.
“I’ve taken a lot of heat. But I’m OK with it, and I understand I’m in the place where I’m at, and it’s going to be that way moving forward,” he said. “I recognise it and all I’m going to do is my absolute best to show people who I truly am, and whatever people think about me is not important. It’s about the team this week. It’s about riling us all up and getting that Ryder Cup back here on US home soil.”
Despite the detractors, DeChambeau has a unique ability to fire up crowds by absolutely wrecking a golf ball. He’s been hesitant to swing at 100 percent in PGA Tour events for fear of a foul ball that, in stroke-play competitions, can prove fatal. But in matchplay, where a bad hole counts as simply one hole lost, and with a partner, and on a course that rewards length off the tee – the double-century mark is in play.
“It’s a little colder here, but hopefully I can get over 200 miles an hour [swing speed]. That would be pretty sweet to see if they have the stats out there this week.”
DeChambeau declined to speak with print media throughout his strong play late in the summer, refusing to field questions even after shooting 60 at the BMW and participating in one of the great playoffs in recent memory. The last straw, ostensibly, was the reaction to his comments at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational about not being vaccinated against COVID-19. When asked Tuesday if he’d had a change of heart, his answer brought to mind Marshawn Lynch’s I’m just here so I won’t get fined comments during the Super Bowl in 2015.
“I think this is a team event,” DeChambeau said. “I’m focused on helping Team USA to a victory, and that’s honestly the reason why I’m here.”
While DeChambeau himself has been mostly silent in recent months, he’s reminded of his feud with Brooks Koepka every time he steps out in public. The latest development came at the Tour Championship, when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that fans’ calling him “Brooksy” equates to harassment and could result in expulsion from tournaments. This week, the two men who have dominated golf headlines in recent months are teammates – an intriguing dynamic on the surface but one that, according to DeChambeau, is being handled professionally.
“A lot of this social media stuff has definitely been driven by a lot of external factors, not necessarily us two. We had a great … we had some great conversations Tour Championship week when we had dinner, and then this week, as well. I sat down and had dinner with him last night, and it was fine.
Then, a tease.
“I think there may be something fun coming up here moving forward, but won’t speak too much more on that.”
That quote will tickle the fancy of those clamouring on social media for a Brooks-Bryson made-for-TV match down the road, or more immediately a pairing of the two once this competition begins on Friday – a possibility that US captain Steve Stricker threw cold water on but did not deny completely.
“Will we pair them together? I don’t think so at this point,” Stricker said Monday, “but things could change. Could always happen. But probably not.”