The final round of the U.S. Open is typically the most stressful 18 holes in golf, given the narrow fairways, clingy rough, and greens the surface of glass, a four-plus-hour test of one’s physical talent and patience.
However, among the world’s best players Sunday at Winged Foot Golf Club, Bryson DeChambeau handled those 18 holes at an elite level all his own.
In one of the most dominating final rounds in recent Open history, the bulky 27-year-old Californian fired a 3-under-par 67 – the only contestant to break par all day – in the brilliant sunshine and ran away to an overpowering 6-shot victory over Matthew Wolff for the championship.
The way DeChambeau performed in posting a 72-hole score of 6-under 274 brought to mind a comment from golf great Bob Jones as he watched a young Jack Nicklaus win the 1965 Masters: “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.”
The 235-pound DeChambeau, who gained 20 pounds from the end of 2019 to the restart of the PGA Tour season in June, said that in his work with coach Chris Como, the goal has been “body transformation, change my golf swing, and crush the status quo.”
He exhibited that Sunday. He swung for the fences on every tee shot on a par-4 or a par-5, mostly with a driver. If his ball went into the rough, which it did eight out of 14 times, he just found it and gouged it out.
But it wasn’t just power. Of the six greens he missed, he failed to get up and down for par only once, at the eighth hole, and otherwise showed a deft touch with his short game.
DeChambeau’s average driving distance of 325.6 yards was the longest of any Open champion, while his 23 fairways hit were the fewest. The latter statistic did not faze him.
“As I played practice rounds this week, I tried to hit driver everywhere and see if it would work,” he said. “Luckily enough, the rough, at least as far up as I was hitting it, wasn’t penalizing for me. I felt like I could get pitching wedge to the green. I was able to focus on that strategy and keep going and be confident in that strategy.”
Wolff, 21, went into the final round with a 2-stroke lead, but bogeys at Nos. 3 and 5, coupled with DeChambeau’s birdie at No. 4, had him chasing the rest of the afternoon.
DeChambeau’s eagle at the par-5 ninth on a 38-foot putt was matched by Wolff’s 3 to make it a one-shot difference at the turn, but the lead would lengthen.
DeChambeau birdied 11 and Wolff’s bogeys at 10 and 14 boosted the lead to four. The victory was all but clinched at No. 16, when Wolff double-bogeyed and DeChambeau went on to join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players in history to win an NCAA Division I championship, a U.S. Amateur, and the U.S. Open.
“I think I’m definitely changing the way people think about the game,” he said. “Now, whether you can do it, that’s a whole different situation. There’s a lot of people that are going to be hitting it far. Matthew was hitting it plenty far today. A couple of putts just didn’t go in for him and kept the momentum on my side. So he’s definitely got the firepower and the strength to do it.”
It was a special weekend for Wolff, who was trying to match the legendary Francis Ouimet (1913) in winning the Open in his first attempt. After carding rounds of 66 Thursday and 65 Saturday, he fell short on the closing 18.
“I played really tough all week,” Wolff said. “I battled hard. Things just didn’t go my way. But my first U.S. Open, second place is something to be proud of and hold your head up high for. I’m just excited to learn from this experience, and it’s definitely not the last time that I’m going to be in this spot.”
Louis Oosthuizen and Xander Schauffele trailed by three shots after eight holes but saw DeChambeau eventually sprint away from them. Oosthuizen fired a 73 for third place at 282 and Schauffele’s 74 put him fifth at 284, his fourth consecutive top-six finish in an Open.
Harris English, who lost his ball on his very first tee shot and made double bogey, recovered for a 73 and fourth at 283.