There was the Summer of Love, the Summer of ’69 tune and those Summer Nights from the movie Grease and karaoke bars around the world.
Now we have Bryson DeChambeau’s lost summer.
What had seemed to be building like the July heat finally overflowed last week at the Open Championship where DeChambeau’s frustration with himself, his equipment and the unconquerable game finally became too much for the sport’s ultimate control freak.
In publicly ripping the equipment company (Cobra) that pays him handsomely while indulging his obsessive tinkering, DeChambeau revealed his own vulnerability. He’s guilty of creating his own problems.
He’s not alone in doing that but, like many things involving DeChambeau, the effect is profound.
Nine months after a U.S. Open victory that sent traditionalists reaching for their blood pressure medicine and four months after doing his best “Rocky” impersonation in winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, DeChambeau has finished a major championship season diminished rather than enhanced and not just because he failed to finish in the top 25 in any of the four majors.
Whether or not you like the social-media feud between the two, DeChambeau has been knee-capped by Brooks Koepka, who has made DeChambeau into his personal dart board. DeChambeau hasn’t known how to react, sometimes playing the role of victim, other times pretending to embrace the trolling that has ensnared him in a game he can’t win.
Koepka has given DeChambeau the equivalent of a public wedgie.
For someone who ingests numbers like some of us ingest potato chips and who attacks the game the way a woodchipper attacks a fallen pine tree, DeChambeau has been put on the defensive by his own actions.
On the golf side, the game remains difficult, no matter what the algorithms might say.
DeChambeau still hasn’t figured out that he can’t overpower Augusta National, no matter how much it seems there for the taking. Muscle matters but no more than nuance and artistry there.
He led the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines as he rolled into the final nine holes only to shoot 44 coming in to finish T26.
As bad as that was, he made it worse with his post-round comments when, in a tone equally petulant and patronizing, he explained that winning majors is 50 percent luck and he got too many bad breaks at Torrey Pines. For a man who loves a good equation, he’s suggesting Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods believe they won their majors as much through luck as through skill.
Nobody was buying what Bryson was selling.
When DeChambeau’s longtime caddie Tim Tucker stepped away before the Rocket Mortgage Challenge, no doubt wishing to have at least a few minutes of free time during tournament weeks, DeChambeau stonewalled the public, declining to speak with the media after the two tournament rounds he played in Detroit.
It’s the same place he berated a cameraman a year ago.
As individual instances, those might not be big deals but he’s an ambassador for Rocket Mortgage and he went into lockdown mode during tournament week this year. That’s the same guy who is so concerned about his sponsors that he would not begin his champion’s interview at the U.S. Open last fall until a bottle of his protein shake had been positioned in front of him so that it was in every camera shot.
When he went off on his Cobra driver last week at Royal St. George's, DeChambeau should have been fired by the company. It was the unpardonable sin.
The reason companies like Cobra pay millions to players is in hopes of convincing those of us who play golf for fun that maybe we can capture a little of what the pros have by playing similar equipment. DeChambeau blamed everyone but himself.
A Cobra exec fired back saying DeChambeau was acting like an 8-year-old, and he was right.
Beyond DeChambeau’s “the driver sucks” remarks was this beauty:
“It’s quite finicky for me because it’s a golf course that’s pretty short, and so when I hit driver and it doesn’t go in the fairway, it’s first cut or whatever, or it’s in the hay, it’s tough for me to get it out on to the green and control that. But when it’s in the middle of the fairway like I had it on 18, I was able to hit a nice shot to 11 feet and almost made birdie. It’s kind of living on the razor’s edge.”
In other words, when he hits it sideways it’s the club’s fault, even though he insists on swinging the way Joey Chestnut consumes hot dogs. As fast as humanly possible.
DeChambeau apologized after his outburst with a social-media statement that read like it was crafted by a public relations firm doing damage control because it probably was. That’s not to suggest DeChambeau doesn’t feel remorse for what he said and how he acted but the whole thing felt like the needle that popped a balloon.
Attend a tournament where DeChambeau is playing and fans love to watch him mash a golf ball, the primal power even more impressive up close than on television with all the gaudy numbers displayed. But it’s hard to relate to DeChambeau, who revels in playing the game differently and believing he’s onto something no one else has figured out.
That doesn’t make him a bad guy, only a different kind of guy. He defended himself recently by saying he’s a nice guy – and he is. But DeChambeau has done enough things recently that he put himself in the position of having to defend himself that way.
His act has gotten old in a hurry.
What this summer has shown is a guy who may not have been ready for all that has come at him. For someone who ingests numbers like some of us ingest potato chips and who attacks the game the way a woodchipper attacks a fallen pine tree, DeChambeau has been put on the defensive by his own actions.
It’s like golf. If you put yourself in a bad spot, it’s on you to play your way out. That’s where DeChambeau finds himself these days.
Another thought: Could two players and their personalities be more different than DeChambeau and now two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, whose maturity level seems as borderline supernatural as his iron play?
DeChambeau will carry the American flag (with Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele) in the upcoming Olympics and he’ll be part of captain Steve Stricker’s Ryder Cup team in September. The next two months are important for DeChambeau beyond the golf he plays.
If DeChambeau is as smart as he projects himself to be, he will learn from these past few months.
That would make it a summer worth remembering for him.
He needs it.
Top: Bryson DeChambeau was critical of his Cobra driver at Royal St. George's and later attempted damage control.