It was the 72nd hole of the 2024 U.S. Open. Bryson DeChambeau’s ball was mid-air, and flying left. Across the fairway, over the native area, toward a tree with roots that would soon interfere with his U.S. Open dreams.

Rory McIlroy was tied for the lead, with a six-footer to post six under. He was the form player all day. For that brief moment, a Bryson bogey seemed the likely outcome, which meant the trophy would fall to Rory.

“After my tee shot, I was up there going, ‘Man, if he makes par, I don’t know how I’m going to beat him,'” DeChambeau admitted afterward.

The sequence of events that followed was both fascinating, fantastic, and gutting. It was nine shots in all—four from DeChambeau, and five from Rory McIlroy—that marked the end of what may be remembered as one of the greatest Sunday evenings in major championship history.

It was Bryson who lifted the trophy at the end of it, and in many ways, his journey down Pinehurst’s 18th hole was a perfect case study in the kind of player Bryson has become.

Let’s break it down.

A Bomb

DeChambeau used to want to be a Ben Hogan-inspired, ball-striking machine. But he wanted to win more, and 14 consecutive majors without a top 20 major to start his career wasn’t going to do it. So, he adopted a new mindset: Accuracy when possible. Distance, always. He bulked up, altered his swing, and sent the drives launching.

As he did on the 72nd hole.

DeChambeau had been spraying bombs all day, and he sent his final drive with 194 mph ball speed once again into the left native area.

DeChambeau would finish the day first in the field in Driving Distance, and last in driving accuracy.

A gouge

Bryson’s wayward drive almost ignited a war.

Golf’s rulebook allows players to take free relief whenever their shot is interrupted by a Temporarily Immovable Obstruction such as a grandstand.

DeChambeau, by nature of being a classic bomb-and-gouger, finds himself in beneficial TIO situations often—as he did earlier this week. Not this time, though. A USGA rules official made the gutsy call that Bryson’s line to the green was uninterrupted, and thus not entitled to relief. A double blow considering his ball was up against a tree root. Bryson’s creativity and judgement in these situations is underrated, and he did well to advance his ball 40 yards into a mid-range bunker.

“I had no backswing,” he said. “I was just like, ‘OK, I have to hack it.'”

A masterclass

At the start of the week, Bryson put a new wedge in play, and he was very excited about it.

“It has almost no bounce,” he said, pointing to the sole of the club. “It means it sits super flat on the ground without me having to do anything.”

That lack-of-manipulation element is key to Bryson’s approach, throughout the green. Bryson aspires to be a kind of Ben Hogan-inspired robot. His goal is to change as little as possible in his golf swing; he wants his clubs tailored specifically to him.

On wedge shots, both from the sand and from the fairway, DeChambeau takes his stock setup, and limits the size of his backswing using a clock as reference. It was just shy of 12 o’clock on this one,, and the result was perfection.

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Gregory Shamus

A science

At the start of every round, Bryson sets up a ruler on the green and measures, exactly, how far his backstroke travels on different lengths of putts. How far is the backstroke, and how far does the putt roll out to as a result?

On this life-changing four-footer, DeChambeau dialed-up exactly what he needed: Just a few inches. The rest was up to fate.

“I had a unique childhood experience in golf of working on really quirky, weird things, then also working super hard on the mechanics, trying to be as machine-like as possible,” he said. “When the greens are not perfectly flat, they’re not glass, there’s some little bumps and whatnot, being imaginative, seeing how the ball is going to curve over the edge, that’s what I focus on.”

Over the edge it rolled. Art, science, strategy, and athleticism. It was all there on DeChambeau’s final hole on Sunday. Golf’s once mad scientist, calibrating the machine for a little bit of magic.

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com