See You In Paris…
PARAMUS, NJ. Heading into the opening event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs with The Northern Trust serving as the kick-off event at storied Ridgewood Country Club there was endless speculation on a range of topics. What top players would finish off the year with a win of the FedEx Cup? What players would manage to keep their season alive and be among the top 100 heading to Boston? And, more importantly, what players would be in the conversation for Ryder Cup selection as one of USA captain Jim Furyk’s picks.
When the top eight players based on accumulated points were announced following the PGA Championship at Bellerive one name was just outside the cut-off limit — Bryson DeChambeau.
The 24–year-old Californian has often received more attention for his range of eccentricities and the manner by which he has sought to be outside the box of rigid conformity and banality that often lies at the heart of many professionals looking for success on the PGA TOUR.
The key dimension for legitimatization though is one simple adage Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders used to say repeatedly — just win baby — just win.
Since making his professional debut in April of 2016 with a tie for 4th finish at the RBC Heritage event in South Carolina, the focal point on DeChambeau has often meant attention on his demeanor and approach to the game of golf. Yes, Bryson follows a very unique path. All of his irons and wedges are of the same length — clearly not what others do with their equipment. He pushed the margins with his desire to use a compass during his play which has since been outlawed. His demeanor at the recent Open Championship at Carnoustie also drew some stares and head scratching.
But, what’s become clearly obvious — and his win at Ridgewood emphatically shows — is that DeChambeau can play golf at the highest of levels. His 266 total bested the low 72-hole total at Ridgewood by four strokes set by Hunter Mahan in ’14. However, unlike fellow young competitors such as Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas — DeChambeau has not won a major championship — yet. But the stakes at Ridgewood mattered a good deal. Many eyes were on those seeking to break through and likely earn just two of the four American team spots — with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson seen as already accounted for by Furyk.
DeChambeau asserted himself with a scintillating 3rd round 63 — bested only by Keegan Bradley’s 62 that day. Going into the final round Bryson had a two stroke lead but final rounds come with ebb and flow and can be unsettling except for the most driven. Given the stature of the event and with Ryder Cup consideration lurking in the immediate shadows many inquiring minds were clearly watching with interest.
Early on DeChambeau sent a loud and clear message with two consecutive birdies to open the round at the 1st and 2nd. After two bogies allowed pursuers to sniff the possibility in getting close to the lead, DeChambeau ended all such hopes with back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th holes — allowing him to simply make pars for the remaining holes and a four shot triumph which was never really in any serious doubt.
DeChambeau did not earn an automatic bid for this year’s American squad in Paris — and Furyk will weigh in shortly with three of his captain picks on September 4. The final position will be announced after the BMW event in Philadelphia. But DeChambeau’s convincing win at Ridgewood, coupled with his earlier win this year at the Memorial and his consistent play throughout the year, have effectively removed any doubt that the cerebral golfer will join a team looking for full vindication in winning on European soil for the first time since 1993.
Tiger Woods bolstered DeChambeau case with his comments at The Northern Trust event stating the USA team is looking for golfers with fire and there’s little doubt DeChambeau brings that to the table. All of the side issues concerning DeChambeau now are pushed to the side. His desire to constantly improve are there for anyone with eyes to see — witness his staying at the practice area at Ridgewood following his play during the 3rd round.
The American squad that heads to Paris in late September will be looking to turn the page and reassert American dominance in an event that has been the domain of Europe for quite such time. Although DeChambeau has not been officially selected it is clear his addition to the team will be just another of the clear steps in turning the page to a new cast of golfers — eager to perform and who relish the competitive scene.
DeChambeau took a major step forward in winning the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. But professional golf provides no guarantees. In 2017 — DeChambeau missed 13 of 16 cuts in one stretch. Yet, on the flip side — only Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau — have more top ten than Bryson with eight this year. Now ranked 12th in the world, several key events remain to be played and DeChambeau realizes better than most that winning at Ridgewood is now in the rear view mirror. The road ahead matters most but it’s safe to say that when the 12 USA players gather in Paris for the 42nd rendition of The Ryder Cup matches the name Bryson DeChambeau will clearly be among them.
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