DeChambeau Paradigm Shift?

Bryson DeChambeau Made Theory Work-Can Others?

Some have described Bryson DeChambeau’s U.S. Open win as “outrageous,” but I don’t think the comment was pejorative, rather one of awe. Some have taken to referring to the new champion as “The Hulk” or “The Golf Hulk.” Yes, there’s a touch of that. I have myself used the term “Frankensteinian,” without intending any insult. By that comment, I refer to both the scientist and the creature.

Has a strategy of “bulk up, hit too far for trouble, and use it as an advantage with shorter approaches and putts” taken over the game of golf? It certainly did last week, but I wonder how many other people can do it, or understand the meticulousness and obsession that went into it. Remember, DeChambeau has a strong finesse game as well, once we’re finished being blinded by Herculean drives. How many, even pros, are going to stay on the range half the night to tweak irons that aren’t  ‘turning over’ just right?

The U.S. Open winner is the ultimate example of “In for a penny, in for a pound.” One favorite comment heard frequently in the American west is “Nobody likes a hundred percenter.” Well, that’s who just won the U.S. Open, and if anyone wants to beat him, they’re going to have to match the commitment. The venerable golf courses on which the tour is played put most of the trouble at distances that matched antique statistics. DeChambeau may visit the tall grass once in a while, but most bunkers and a lot of water represent fly-over country  for him.

For a couple of years now, I’ve heard every analyst explain why DeChambeau can’t succeed with this line of thinking. After all, the biggest hitters have not all been big winners in golf history. We have come to admire the principles of course strategy and careful golf. Back in Gary Player’s day, that is what was required, but DeChambeau has posed the question, “What if I dispense with all that, and make all the trouble irrelevant?”

Unfortunately, there will always be people so afraid of change that they cling to the status quo for all they’re worth, and resent the messenger whenever he appears. I have heard people say “I just don’t like him,” but can offer no real reason. Yes, change can be disconcerting, but I for one can’t live without it. No Frankensteins, Hulks, and mad scientists means nothing ever happens over the long haul.

That being said, I believe we should be patient with DeChambeau’s impatience and ‘outrageous’ tinkering. Creating uniform club length? It’s mad – but what do you know, it worked. Reasonable accuracy at 350 yards and beyond? Never happen – but what do you know, it worked. Now a 48 inch driver for beating Augusta over the head? It might be like playing with someone who gets to use the tees 100 yards down the fairway on every hole. Could work.

Consider all the great inventors we know from the last two centuries. They were scientists, monsters, obsessively meticulous, brave, and unwilling to be stopped by entrenched tradition. That includes a new Hall-of-Famer to be, in all likelihood. Another thing about those inventors, those paradigm shifters – they were alone. There was only one of them per shift, until others saw it work and joined the idea. For the tour players, unless they’re all going to bulk up as DeChambeau has, don’t necessarily have bodies that will do what his will. If his colleagues are going to stretch their distance wherever possible, they had better match the discipline that went along with his process. How many will commit to the regimen that drove the U.S. Open winner?

It is difficult to say how many years such an approach will last. Someday, the body will be less willing to go over the top from every tee box, but even then, DeChambeau will have a talented and disciplined game to fall back on. He’s not just some long-drive champion who mistakenly wandered onto a real golf course. And, once the prime of the muscle days are over, the mad scientist may have come up with another paradigm shift to keep us glued to our seats for a few more years. My advice – don’t get used to the status quo. Bryson DeChambeau doesn’t believe in it.



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