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WINNER: Bryson DeChambeau has long had his methods questioned, but he’s now a PGA Tour winner. And it was EMPHATIC. DeChambeau was even par for his final round and several shots back and then pushed his game into overdrive. Birdies at Nos. 10, 11, 13 and 14 rushed him into contention, but he still needed a strong finish to catch and pass Patrick Rodgers. DeChambeau did just that. He hit a stunning second from 268 yards from the right rough at the par-5 17th to 40 feet. A two-putt from there gave him birdie. His approach at the par-4 18th from 194 yards went just left and long of the flag and ended up 14 feet from the hole. That birdie putt was to close in 30, shoot 6-under 65 and tie the lead at 18 under. The stroke was a good one but the ball appeared it would dive low and right before catching the edge and dropping for a closing birdie.
DeChambeau unleashed a spirited reaction after the clutch birdie and then had to wait. Rodgers would hit a wild drive at the par-5 17th, punch out short into the rough, knock the ball on the green from there but leave himself a chip from the putting surface, nip that to 8 feet and miss the par putt. Suddenly that bogey put him one back, and if Rodgers couldn’t birdie 18, DeChambeau was the winner. Rodgers flailed his drive right at 18, went long after a punch on his second and then nearly chipped in for birdie for an incredible tie. After Rodgers narrowly missed on holing that and tapping in for his par, DeChambeau had posted a one-shot victory.
DeChambeau was a star at SMU, and in 2015 became just the fifth player to win the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year. Since he turned pro last year, though, he’s courted criticism for his eccentric methods.
Earlier this year, the 23-year-old had a battle with the U.S. Golf Association over his side-saddle putting. It eventually led to him calling out the organization and subsequently apologizing. He has since ditched side-saddle.
There’s also DeChambeau’s single-length irons and wedges, and his scientific approach. His commitment to all of this has earned eye rolls a plenty from golfing observers. But DeChambeau has persevered through it all. He also has a compelling backstory with his dad’s successful long-time battle to receive a donated kidney.
Anyway, whatever people feel, DeChambeau has done it his way and look at that … he has his first PGA Tour win at age 23. If that’s not a clear message to the detractors, then we don’t know what is.
There’s no questioning DeChambeau’s talent. His potential is boundless. He finished T-4 in his pro debut last year at the RBC Heritage, and won in the Web.com Tour Finals last fall to earn his PGA Tour card.
This PGA Tour season has been a struggle at times (see above), as DeChambeau had missed 14 cuts and withdrew once in 24 starts along with his USGA battles. But now he has his win, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and, oh yeah, a spot into the Open Championship (via the Open Qualifying Series).
People can say what they want, but DeChambeau has arrived on his terms. And he’s not going anywhere for a long time. Maybe his methods are unorthodox, but they produce results. That’s all that matters.
JUST MISSED: Poor Patrick Rodgers. The 25-year-old is a former winner of the Haskins Award presented by Stifel, shares the all-time victories record at Stanford with Tiger Woods and Maverick McNealy and won on the Web.com Tour in 2015 – a year after turning pro. But he can’t get his first PGA Tour title. This seemed like his to win, as he started the day with a two-shot lead and was still two in front after birdies at Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 15 (interspersed was a bogey at 14). But DeChambeau charged and that bogey on 17 cost Rodgers. Still, his time will come. In this PGA Tour season, he’s now held two 54-hole leads and finished top 5 twice. His final-round 70 put him one short Sunday, but he will win a good deal on the PGA Tour.
QUOTABLE: “I think that’s the true meaning behind what I try and do is I show everybody that look there’s plenty of ways to do it and I like doing it my way and I feel comfortable doing it my way. Whatever way you want to do it out there, you can do it.” – DeChambeau, on if winning the John Deere Classic is validation for his unorthodox style
SHORT SHOTS: Wesley Bryan finishes T-3 at 16 under thanks to a final-round 64. He jumps 24 spots on the leaderboard. … Steve Stricker posts a heart-racing closing round. The three-time JDC champion was 8 under for his round through 14, 16 under overall and tied for the lead. He needed a strong finish to have a chance, but he posted three pars and then bogeyed 18 to get in at 15 under. That wasn’t enough, but he did jump 30 spots to a tie for fifth thanks to that 64. … Zach Johnson posts another high finish at the JDC. He had six top-three showings here (including a win in 2012). It’s a T-5 for him this time as he closes in 67 to finish at 15 under. He was in the lead at one point Sunday but couldn’t keep it up as he played his final five holes in 1 over. … Brian Harman (the 2014 JDC champion) starts his round 5 under through eight and challenges the lead but cools off for a 67. That’s still a top 10, though, as he places T-10 at 14 under. … Morgan Hoffmann jumps 45 spots to a tie for 12th at 13 under thanks to a final-round 64. … McNealy, formerly of Stanford, is the low am finisher as he posts at 9 under for a tie for 44th.