DeChambeau : Flawed Maverick or Champion Reformer ?
The current wall to wall golf press coverage of the DeChambeau phenomenon has raised a number of issues. The seemingly never ending distance debate has been given new life; invigorating calls for overhauling club and ball technology, a system of bifurcation and heated argument on narrowing fairways with knee-high rough for when the pros come to compete. All have merit, all have supporters and all are keenly contested.
Mr DeChambeau’s recent performance at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio where he managed to produce a quintuple bogey 10 including two shots out of bounds, refused to abide by a decision by a rules official and missed the cut has served to increase the focus on this much maligned individual, his attitude and his methods.
What matters to the media is that DeChambeau just keeps on giving. Obsessed with the appliance of science to the game of golf, he has bulked up and powered up through strength conditioning programmes and a diet which consists of large quantities of protein shakes consumed throughout the day. His style of play is still woefully slow for most of his fellow competitors and that’s before he starts arguing with tournament officials; not forgetting his pettiness shown towards journalists and cameramen for not assisting him in “ protecting his brand “. It is clearly Bryson’s way or no way. This is an approach which has invited admiration and loathing; not always in equal measure whenever he steps on to the first tee.
So what impact will his efforts have on our beloved game. Will we see a new generation follow his example. It is very possible many will attempt to but I suspect this will happen only if he is consistently successful.
So how do we actually measure success in today’s professional golf world ? For as long as I have been playing golf the answer has been very simple. Number of Majors won. For the men Nicklaus, Woods, Palmer, Player, Watson, Ballesteros, Faldo, Mickelson and Els. For the women Sorenstam, Inkster, Webb, Park, Alcott, Davies.
Whether it is our Open Championship, The Masters, US Open or USPGA, these are the titles all male pro players aspire to achieve. It is very difficult to argue for anyone being one of the Greats of the Game unless he has secured at least one of these classic championships. Some may counter that in a professional sport career winnings should be the measurement of success. I would respond that the vast fortunes being earned by many relatively modest performers has resulted in them failing to achieve their full potential on the biggest stages of all.
To overcome the critics, the purists and the doubters DeChambeau will certainly need to secure at least one Major in his career and be expected to perform well in the next couple of Ryder Cups. Should he achieve the first of these he will join an ever expanding list of single Major winners.
A selection of some of the very best players of a recent vintage including Jim Furyk, Fred “ boom boom “ Couples, Tom Kite, Darren Clarke, Paul Lawrie and, dare I mention, Stewart Cink have been joined by a handful of today’s golf superstars such as Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Schwartzel, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell.
Having scaled the heights and been crowned as a Major Champion it is staggering that these great players have not ( yet ) added to their haul of a solitary victory. However as I was going through the process of identifying these Major winners it was impossible not to start reflecting on those outstanding performers over the last 40 – 50 years who, despite numerous worldwide wins and accumulating vast wealth never secured that one elusive, most coveted Major to put on their golf c.v.
Who then would qualify for your list of best players without a Major ?
Painful as it is to remind everyone but three of our great European Ryder Cup stars would be right up there.
Colin “ Monty “ Montgomerie ended his Major career with no fewer than 5 runner up spots; the most of all time. Lee Westwood currently has 12 top 5 finishes in all Majors ( 2 more than anyone else without a win ) and 1 of only 2 players to achieve the status of No.1 golfer in the world without having secured a Major; the only other player to do this is in fact Luke Donald.
On the American side Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar seem to have achieved everything else as professional golfers except to make that final step to be crowned as a Major champion. Fowler has finished second at The Masters, The Open and the US Open and must surely get over the line at some point. Kuchar has finished in the top 10 at 12 Major championships, taking 2nd at the 2017 Open Championship.
Looking at the very latest group of top performers DeChambeau faces fierce competition. Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Matthew Wolff have all shown they have the game and competitive strength to win at the highest level of the game.
When you assemble the list of Multi Major champions still competing on the PGA & European Tours including Woods, McIlroy, Koepka, Spieth, Mickelson and place them in a full Major field with those players mentioned already in this article it is easy to see just what a formidable challenge any pro faces to succeed in these most celebrated of tournaments. Given the intense scrutiny DeChambeau is guaranteed to be under from all quarters at every Major over the next couple of years, it will be fascinating to observe how Bryson approaches this key chapter in his career, to witness the response to him from fellow players, fans and the media and what will be the master plan developed and implemented by the game’s governing bodies to ensure the great game of golf is fit for purpose for generations to come.