By Michael Weston published
Four and a half years ago, a jet-lagged Bryson DeChambeau was sitting alone in a garden in Birkdale yawning and rubbing his eyes. Most people there were more interested by what was on the barbecue, not the 23-year-old Californian who’d just flown in having qualified for his first Open. In fact, he barely drew a glance.
Eight victories down the road, including that incredible US Open win at Winged Foot, and DeChambeau is golf’s hottest topic right now. Even so, last year was difficult – so hard, in fact, that he almost called it quits. The feud with Brooks Koepka, missing the Olympics as a result of a positive Covid-19 test… he was even accused of acting "like an eight-year-old" by his own equipment sponsors. It all got a bit too much.
"Last year with everything going against me, whether it was media, the players or whatever it was, it became a lot on a human being," DeChambeau says during a video conference on Thursday to promote his appearance in the Saudi International next month. "It's amazing what people can do when they tell you you're this all the time, or that all the time, when you know it's not true.
"You're doing a lot for charity. You're doing a lot for people around you, your team around you, and continue to provide the best entertainment for the world of golf, and it becomes difficult sometimes."
Thankfully, he’s no longer entertaining the idea of quitting. Like or loathe his strategy, which basically revolves around smashing the ball as far as possible every week – and even if the Mad Scientist’s comments on air density and spin rates grate your nerves – there's no denying that DeChambeau is pure box office. How can anyone not enjoy watching a player attempt to drive a par 5?
It was Hollywood star, Chris Pratt, who actually helped DeChambeau quash any thoughts of quitting. Sometimes everyone just needs an arm around the shoulder. "Chris Pratt helped me out at a really difficult time for me," he explains.
"He said play this fictional character for a while. I know you’re not happy, you’re in a very difficult spot, but act like you’re acting for a little bit and as time has gone on that's gone away and I’ve become myself again.
"Because there was a point in time where it wouldn’t have been fun being around me because of how frustrated and disappointed and sad I was."
Playing in Saudi: "Not a politician"
Last year, with criticism mounting and his mood darkening, DeChambeau stopped talking to the media. However, as he gears up for the new season and a return to the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City next month, no topic, it seems, is off limits, not even the subject of sportswashing and human rights.
"So not a politician, first off," he says. "I'm a golfer, first and foremost, and I want to play where the best golfers in the world are going to play. And that is the end of the story for me."
Nothing to add there, maybe, but DeChambeau has plenty of other news to share. Firstly, he’s waiting to take delivery of a new driver that will help him hit the ball even further. It will give him an advantage at the Saudi International, for sure, which is already a course that "fits a bomber pretty well".
He’ll be in Saudi Arabia to win, and that’s just what he’s targeting when he tees it up at Augusta National in April. In November 2020, he made a rod for his own back when declaring that, with his power, the famous venue was just "a par 67 for me".
When he finished 18 shots back from eventual winner, Dustin Johnson, many were quick to poke fun – how dare you make such bold predictions. The sheer disrespect. DeChambeau, however, is keen to clarify those remarks.
"You can put the par at whatever you want it to be," he says. "What I was saying was just based on distances I was having in relative length, and people are going to take that the wrong way.
"I never meant it to be that that way - it was always just this is what I'm thinking about the golf course as a strategy and it didn't really pan out. I played terrible and it is what it is, right?
"At the end of the day, I look at it as Augusta is in my sights and I want to win. I definitely have my sights on Augusta and can't wait to see what I can do with this new length and new driver."
Growing the game
Despite all the spats, contentious remarks and his relentless pursuit of distance, DeChambeau insists he "doesn’t want to be a super-controversial figure". You might say that he brings it on himself, but his intention, he says, is merely to entertain.
"My life, my passion is to play the best golf I can, number one. Number two, I want to grow the game to a level that's never been seen before. I want to continue to grow it like Tiger did.
"I probably won't have anywhere near the same influence as Tiger, but I want to continue to keep providing golfers and us entertainers out there with a better platform, a better stage to provide everyone in the world, all seven billion, maybe a little bit more now, maybe almost close to eight billion, people an opportunity to see this great game.
"It's afforded me so many pleasurable and amazing things that I feel it's my duty to give back in every way possible. One of them is the long drive. I have a passion for it, and I feel it completely aligns with what I want to accomplish in the game of golf. I feel there's a way to showcase athletes in a light that's never been seen before."
Turning down Netflix
He’s referring to the Long Drive World Championships, in which he played last year and eventually finished seventh. He has a lot of projects on the go, one of which includes creating his own content. It does mean, however, that we won’t be seeing him in the upcoming Netflix golf mini-series.
"I feel like people are seeing me on YouTube, Instagram, and they're getting a pretty dang good look inside my life," he explains. "And to have more people come in and go even farther, which is almost impossible for what I'm giving out, is just overall too invasive for me. I didn't really want any more than that because I do have to have a life outside of it.
"I feel like there's a lot more interesting stories. You've got Harry Higgs. You've got numerous others. I don't want to take the light away from them for their potential to grow themselves in a manner that's unique to them, where they're already pretty far behind. They have the opportunity to grow a lot more than I do in that regard."
Don't worry. We'll still be seeing plenty of Bryson on the television this year.
Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.
Luke Donald Becomes Favourite To Be Next European Ryder Cup Captain
The former world number one served as a vice-captain in 2018 and 2020.
By Matt Cradock • Published
Padraig Harrington Cracks Driver Mid Round And Still Shoots Under Par
The former Ryder Cup Captain was dealt a very strange ruling during his third round in Abu Dhabi.
By Matt Cradock • Published