HAVEN, Wis. – Bryson DeChambeau entered the week as a huge question mark. He ended it doused in champagne, a key contributor in Team USA’s resounding 19-9 victory over Europe, and hugging it out with Brooks Koepka. Yes, that really happened.
“It was just the coolest experience I’ve ever had in golf,” he said. “I don’t know how else to say it.”
DeChambeau hadn’t talked to the media in over a month and reportedly had agreed to put his differences with Koepka behind for the good of the team, but would the Mad Scientist have the right chemistry with the rest of his team?
The 43rd Ryder Cup may go down as a turning point in DeChambeau’s career. He leaned into being a member of Team USA and enjoyed the lovefest with the fans like never before.
Credit goes to U.S. team captain Steve Stricker, who defused the running feud between DeChambeau and Koepka, and realized the potential chemistry that could exist between DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler, one of his six captain’s picks.
“We thought he’d be a very good fit with Bryson,” Stricker said. “That was a key component with me to pick him and pair him up with Bryson.”
It was an inspired decision. Together in two Four-Ball matches, they went 1-0-1 and on Friday DeChambeau belted one of the most memorable shots of the matches, a tee shot that covered a lake and traveled 417 yards, leaving him just 72 yards to the 589-par 5. Even Dustin Johnson was impressed.
“I just want to know what it feels like to fly one 400 on No. 5,” he said interrupting the questioning during the winning team’s press conference.
“How did it feel, Scottie, watching your guy sail it at the green on 5?” Tony Finau wondered.
“I’m sure there’s some good memes of his direction and my direction, and it’s certainly nice to have on my team than playing against it this week, that’s for sure,” Scheffler said.
When the original question that Johnson interrupted was asked specifically to DeChambeau, he said, “Why did you single me out? We have plenty of rookies.”
“Because you haven’t been in media in a long time,” Jordan Spieth cracked.
DeChambeau laughed at himself and gave Spieth a hi-five. There may have been no better example that DeChambeau was accepted as one of the guys than being needled by Spieth.
Then DeChambeau turned serious.
“This is possibly way better than any tournament I’ve won in my entire life, the group of people, the collective game of golf, it’s so much bigger than just a singular tournament,” he said. “It’s about people coming together and doing something special for the game of golf. And I couldn’t be more proud of Captain Strick and everybody putting their hearts out and making it the coolest experience I’ve ever had in my golf career.”
That included an impressive 3-and-2 victory over Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who last lost a singles match against Anthony Kim in 2008.
“I did love beating him. It was amazing,” DeChambeau said. “That statement on No. 1 was pretty special.”
Indeed, it was. DeChambeau stepped to the first tee and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his moon-shot 354-yard drive that landed on the green and then drained the 41-foot eagle putt.
“That was a great start that pumped me up for the rest of the round,” he said. “This golf course does suit me pretty well, but I was fortunate to hit a couple great wedge shots and a couple good bombs out there.”
After the last several months of being heckled with calls of “Brooksie,” that bordered on bullying, he was beloved. He was simply one of the 12 for Team USA and the partisan crowd adored him. In fact, given his 2-0-1 record compared to Koepka’s 2-2 mark, they loved DeChambeau even more.
“I fed off every single shot. They were electric,” he said. “It’s an atmosphere you don’t get very often but one that you can feed off when you do.”
DeChambeau, ever the entertainer, played to the crowd. At the drivable par-4 sixth hole, he switched from driver to a fairway wood. This didn’t sit well with the fans who came to see the strong man swing for the fences. He turned to them and said, “Don’t worry, guys. I’m still going for the green, calm down!” Laughter ensued.
And then there was Koepka. They staged an awkward conversation on the practice tee that was posted on social media as if to say they were now bosoms buddies. While we’ll never know if they did a trust fall together in the team room as Stricker and his merry band of 12 isn’t about to share much about what happens behind closed doors, The Captain did disclose that Koepka and DeChambeau wanted to play with each other.
“That’s how close this team is,” Stricker said, noting that he considered their differences to be media drive. “That to me was big. I didn’t plan on putting them together even after they said that. We talked about it a lot, myself and the assistant captains.”
So why did he ultimately decide against giving the people what they wanted? “I didn’t want that story to be bigger than the real story, and that’s 12 guys,” he said.
But it’s been the story that refuses to die, so, leave it to Justin Thomas to (hopefully) put an end to this played-out sideshow. Thomas called for them to hug it out at the end of Team USA’s winner’s press conference as his teammates sang, ‘Why can’t we be friends?’
— Adam Schupak (@AdamSchupak) September 26, 2021
They patted each other on the back. DeChambeau smile was as big as the lake he cleared on the fifth hole Friday. Is the feud officially dead? Only time will tell, but for one week DeChambeau had the one thing he craves and can’t control: he just wants to be loved – by fans, by media and most of all by his fellow competitors.
It wasn’t hard to see why the winner of eight tournaments including the U.S. Open would say this was the best week of his professional life.
It most certainly was.