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Bryson DeChambeau’s PGA woes end with ‘shocking’ twist

A vintage Bryson DeChambeau performance left us without a victory, but something instead.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bryson DeChambeau was sure not to fall.

The birdie putt on the 18th green at Valhalla Golf Club was only eight feet, but it was the longest eight feet in DeChambeau’s recent professional career. UA made and DeChambeau pushed himself to 20 under at the PGA Championship, tied for leader Xander Schauffele, setting up a must-birdie finish for Schauffele to avoid a play-by-play with a former Tour foe with the power of animation and -showmanship swagger. A miss and DeChambeau’s Sunday was over, fading in the light to allow Schauffele to reach the closing stages and his first championship.

DeChambeau and caddy Greg Bodine circled the putt for a long time, starting to read after a brief discussion. After a few seconds of them committing to the line, DeChambeau thought he was going to end it.

“I thought I left it short and, like — like, you know what,” she said. “Like a fool.”

But on Sunday in the majors they can play tricks on you. Just when you think you know indeed what your ball will do, it will surprise you. And as DeChambeau’s orb lowered its spin on the face of the cup, it did something strange.

DeChambeau reached his arms back as the ball slowed, curled up as if preparing to miss. Just when it looked like the ball was going to run out of steam, it got extra spin and fell.

The crowd erupted. DeChambeau stretches his arms in the air at an oblong angle, holding a celebration that seems to be fueled by the roar of the crowd. Bodine is brilliant. The tournament is saved. DeChambeau — and his caddy — were surprised.

“The reading was a cup – no, four inches out on the left,” said Bodine later. “I thought it might be short on rotation, but it’s not. It was a perfect putt. It’s perfect.”

The sun would shine on DeChambeau’s PGA hopeful in just 28 minutes. Schauffele confidently walked down 18 shortly after the end of DeChambeau’s round, navigated a treacherous bunker and a more complex up-and-down fairway, then holed a birdie putt to win the tournament. He was a great champion, and DeChambeau, watching from the big board near the driving range where he had been blasting warm-up drivers, was a real bummer.

“God no go away,” he whispered as Schauffele’s putt went in.

The group ended quickly for DeChambeau, who climbed the hill even before Schauffele’s putt was out of the hole. DeChambeau shared a quick hug with Schauffele, then walked past the scoring booth and straight to the press conference, where the embarrassment was palpable for his stature alone.

“On my side of the coin, it’s disappointing, but, whatever,” he said, deadpan. “I didn’t hit a hit all week. I felt like I had my ‘B” game up a lot.”

But as the shock of the loss grew, DeChambeau’s demeanor changed. He had just shot a bogey-free, one-under 64 on Sunday at the major, chasing the leader who hadn’t blinked since the second shot on Thursday, and he only shot once … and B-game.

Oh, and he did it while establishing himself as one of the most popular players in the tournament. That is not hyperbole. The 50,000 mostly Kentuckians at Valhalla seemed intent on defeating DeChambeau from the moment he arrived for Sunday’s first game, chanting his name with every monster hit and surprise follow-through. And, in something of a career debut, DeChambeau seemed to fully understand how to harness the power of their collective attention, sharing smiles and memories and genuine human interaction in a way that made them even more animated.

This was not a victory in the literal sense, and the fans could do nothing to fill the void left by his absence the original victory on the PGA, but for a golfer who has found himself on the wrong side of public sentiment more than once, the support was a sign of growth.

“When the time comes, knowing what to do, what to say, how to do it is very important,” DeChambeau said. “When I was young I didn’t understand what it was. Now I do it for the fans and a lot of people and I try to be an entertainer who plays good golf every once in a while.”

bryson dechambeau punches the 18th green at the pga tournament

Bryson DeChambeau has 1 all PGA Championship wins


James Colgan

DeChambeau’s evolution as an entertainer over the past five years has been well documented. You’re a golfer who moonlights as a YouTuber, competes in long-drive tournaments, enjoys esoteric (and perhaps misunderstood) theories, and eats trendy foods like various balls. But somehow those things get in the way of what makes Bryson DeChambeau so attractive: his golf. Again why Is Bryson DeChambeau’s golf swing attractive? Because it is not an action. He doesn’t know better than us what it will look like, and he doesn’t know better than us how he will react to the pressure of the big moment.

Entertainers make their bread with purpose. Knowing, as DeChambeau said, when to pump the fist and when to wave, how to be interesting and likable. But golfers are not given the same freedom. Some days he is an entertainer; other days, he is entertained.

“I freaked out a few times, yeah,” DeChambeau said Sunday. “I don’t feel like I missed one big moment. Obviously there were a couple misses, but every time I needed to get down-and-down I got up-and-down, and every time I needed to make a 6-7-footer I did. I was really surprised, I impressed myself and I know I can do it again, it will take time.”

DeChambeau left the field at the PGA Championship before Schauffele saw Wanamaker, but before DeChambeau entered the parking lot, a group of about a dozen fans had lined him up in the grandstand behind the 10th tee box in hopes of The last few autographs.

He was eager to disappear, to melt into the long night what could have been. But for now. It was time to deliver one last surprise.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news editor and features on GOLF, writing articles for websites and magazines. He manages Hot Mic, the GOLF media stand, and applies his camera knowledge to all product platforms. Before joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, at which time he was the recipient of a caddy (and atute looper) scholarship on Long Island, where he hails from. He can be reached at

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