Analysis: Bryson DeChambeau doesn't win the PGA trophy, but he does win the crowd

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Golf is more than about winning the trophy.

Such was the message from Bryson DeChambeau on the eve of the final round at the PGA Championship. He had just used a 6-iron to chip in for eagle on the 18th hole at Valhalla. He lunged into a ferocious fist pump. He set off one of the loudest cheers of the week.

He still was two shots out of the lead, but that wasn't entirely the point.

“Obviously we all want to win trophies,” he said Saturday evening. “But being able to entertain the fans is what we're all here to do. And I think that's the most important thing.”

Xander Schauffele won the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy with nothing short of exquisite golf, from his 62 in the opening round that tied a major championship record to the 6-foot birdie putt at the end to capture his first major at the PGA Championship.

DeChambeau entertained the fans, and came away with a victory of his own.

He was a fan favorite, an entertainer.

In a week filled with news and highlights — from the arrest of the No. 1 player in the world to the lowest scoring in PGA Championship history — DeChambeau seemed to be in the middle of everything.

Schauffele and Morikawa were on the fifth hole when a roar came ripping through the trees from the direction of the sixth green. No one was sure what it was for, only who it was for. It had to be DeChambeau, and it was.

He was headed to the 10th tee on Sunday, walking with the pace of someone whose car was about to be towed, when he flipped his golf ball to a young boy. It bounced through hands and was snatched by a man who turned to leave.

DeChambeau caught this out of the corner of his eye, returned and began pointing the end of his putter at the man, shouting “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!” The man returned and gave the boy the golf ball.

“Man for the people,” another fan shouted as others cheered.

And they marched along with DeChambeau for nine more holes of must-see golf, including the tee shot on the 16th that was going a country mile to the left until it struck the tallest tree so perfectly it came back to the fairway. He hit 8-iron from 219 yards (with an 8-iron) to 3 feet.

Bryson DeChambeau, crowd favorite. Who saw that coming from the LIV Golf captain of the Crushers? He has spent a decade preaching about how to revolutionize golf, making some curious, others scoff and most everyone at least listening.

He used single-length clubs. He said he considered nine calculations before a shot, from air pressure to adrenaline. He would spray water on his golf balls in practice to try to measure the effect of rainy conditions. He was like the mad scientist.

And then came the “Incredible Bulk” era when he added 40 pounds of muscle and mass to withstand swinging so hard it produced ball speed over 200 mph leaving the club. He won a U.S. Open and contended in a Long Drive Championship.

He wasn't the man for people according to Brooks Koepka. Remember that spat between them that played out over the summer of 2021?

There also was that awkward interview on CNN on June 6 when the PGA Tour and the Saudi backers of LIV Golf struck a commercial agreement. Along with saying that “Nobody's perfect” when it came to Saudi Arabia's human rights record, he expressed sympathy for PGA Tour players who were “not necessarily winning” in the battle with LIV.

Man for the people?

It sure sounded that way at Valhalla. It felt that way, too. DeChambeau no longer wears the Hogan cap. He no longer wears a black hat, either.

DeChambeau was keeping loose on the range for a possible playoff when he watched on a large video board as Schauffele made the winning putt — he would have heard the thousands cheering even without seeing it.

He marched off toward the 18th to greet Schauffele, a popular figure in a more quiet manner.

DeChambeau was sure to offend purists when he suggested he “knew that my ‘B’ game would be enough.” That's just Bryson speaking his version of the truth. He wasn't as complete as when he won the U.S. Open in 2020 with the lowest 72-hole score at Winged Foot. He also shot 20-under 264 in a major.

This is what the PGA Tour is missing. The only place to see DeChambeau between now and the U.S. Open on June 13-16 is on his YouTube channel that already has more than 600,000 subscribers or the next LIV Golf event in Houston a week before the U.S. Open.

Winning matters, and that's what DeChambeau strives to do. Sport is entertainment, too, and he has not lost sight of that, either.

“YouTube has helped me understand that a little bit more,” DeChambeau said. "When the moment comes along, knowing what to do, what to say, how to act is really important. When I was younger, I didn't understand what it was. Yeah, I would have great celebrations and whatnot. But I didn't know what it meant and I was doing for.

“Now I'm doing it a lot more for the fans and for the people, and trying to be a bit of an entertainer that plays good golf every once in a while.”

One of those occasions turned out to be Valhalla. What a show.


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