June 16, 2024

DeChambeau survives and became a two time US Open Champion

 

Epic finish, total choke, and a US Open that was centered around luck. Bryson DeChambeau endured and hit the most clutch shot in recent major championship history. If only for that one shot, he deserves the US Open trophy. Up to that point, he was in a survival mode, clinging to the lead and finally giving it up to a charging Rory McIlroy. But US Open's are not over until the last putt is holed. Heartbreak awaits around every corner on a golf course like Pinehurst #2. Even the best of shots can result in disastrous results. The winner avoided the minefields and minimized the mistakes. In the end, he made the shots and Rory didn't.

Pinehurst #2 is a Donald Ross masterpiece. The most notable distinguishing feature of his design is the dome like greens that resemble an upside-down cereal bowl. It is said that he got his inspiration from his boyhood golf course of Royal Dornoch Golf Club in northern Scotland. I've played Dornoch and it's a wonderful test and there are many falloff features that are characteristics of Donald Ross designs, but not nearly every hole where it drops off from all directions like at Pinehurst. I am not a fan of such a design, unless the greens were more receptive to approach shots. The course first opened in 1907 when green speed was probably half as fast as the modern conditions we have today.

It is true that you need a degree of luck to win a major championship, but for me this was the ultimate lucky open. Drive it off line on most US Open courses and you very rarely come up with a hittable golf shot. At Pinehurst, when balls got into the naïve tall fescue grasses, most times the players had a shot. Bryson drove it poorly through most of the last 27 holes, but routinely found good lies and was able to recover. The commentators were not picking on Bryson, but correctly pointed out his good fortune. I hate when good shots get bad results. But over four days, I saw wonderful shots come within a few feet of excellence and then end up, sometimes, 30 yards away from the putting surface. You could say that the players should've hit a better shot, but these are the best in the world and the conditions prevented them from having a chance.

Coming into this week's US Open, I did not have high hopes of a worthy worldclass winner. I figured a relative unknown would win and be the luckiest player of the week. Payne Stewart winning his historic battle with Phil Michelson in 1999 produced an excellent winner with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh only two shots behind. In my opinion, Michael Campbell and Martin Kaymer were weak champions, who just had their career weeks of their lives. Campbell had unbelievable good bounces when he was trying to give it away. And Kaymer never chipped, but used his putter from way off the greens up to 40 yards. But today's duel was classic.

After you take away the preliminary first 68 holes, you have a duel between two of the best players in the world. What could you have asked for more than this. Rory had a two shot as he teed off on the 15th hole. But playing one hole behind, Bryson made a two-putt birdie on 14, he then teed off on 15 one shot behind. This is what you want, when great players hit clutch shots and outright win a major championship. That didn't happen. Rory played the last four holes in three over par and Bryson was one over for the same holes. Politely, Rory choked. Maybe the pressure finally got to him, but missing two putts inside 4 feet, for a player of his caliber, is sad. Bryson also missed a short par putt on 15 that had been routine until then. Then knowing the 18th hole would decide the tournament, Bryson hit another poor wayward tee shot. This time his very off line tee shot wound up in a near impossible position. He played to a bunker 55 yards away from the pin. Even for a skilled professional, this is about as hard a shot to hit and get the ball close. Having to do this to win the US Open, only doubled the difficultly.

Hats off to Bryson DeChambeau for hitting the shot of the tournament when it mattered most. Sad for Rory, but he only has himself to blame. Hope he can recover from this collapse. It will be a scare that unfortunately will not be forgotten by the media and his psyche. Pinehurst #2 produced drama, excitement and a first-rate winner. I just wish the golf course was setup so the winner didn't also have to be the luckiest.

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