Saturday, May 21

Bryson DeChambeau: Should Golf Fear Or Embrace The Cold New Vision Of Its Future? | Golf

TThe second best moment in golf right now is the moment right before Bryson DeChambeau makes a big run. There is an initial burst of excitement when she takes the big dog out of her bag. A small bounce of sumo from the hips, the feeling of immense and growing power. A couple of hits on the ground. And then the coil, the swing, the devastating crunch of the metal, which is, needless to say, the best part of it all. Then many American men scream like caged animals, and DeChambeau howls something unintelligible before jumping down the street after the ball.

DeChambeau is 27 years old, ranked No. 5 in the world and has a record of a major win and a top-10 finish in 17 attempts. At first glance, this is an unlikely platform from which to launch the unaided destruction of an entire sport. But none of this alone seems to explain why DeChambeau inspires so much awe and fear in equal measure – a product not just of his success, but of the bold and iconoclastic way in which he has done it.

You just have to listen to the way people talk about him: the fixation on his physical strength, the 40 pounds of weight he gained during the run, the moral panic inspired by his immense distance from the tee, the way he rivals and legislators alike. they seem to wither in their mere presence. Rory McIlroy admitted last week that he tried to mimic DeChambeau’s power play and ended up playing his swing in the process. The R&A and USGA are on the verge of tightening the rules on driver length in an apparent attempt to make their rides Bryson-proof. After he declared his intention to circumvent 18th fairway in Sawgrass by driving the ball onto 9th fairway, the organizers quickly declared the route as an internal out of bounds.

Perhaps the timing of DeChambeau’s emergence as an elite challenger, coinciding with the absence of crowds, heightened this sense of distrust – the feeling that with his scientific bent and gym-built power, DeChambeau seemed to herald a cold new one. golf vision. future: incredulous, naive, and algorithm-driven. The impression was only deepened by DeChambeau himself, who looked exactly like a golfer who would be conjured in a Silicon Valley robotics lab: drilled by machine learning, fed a variety of select human phrases, and dressed like a real child in alive.

Ultimately, I guess, this comes down to what you want from your sports stars. Do you want identifiable and recognizable, resourceful and humble, extended versions of your own idealized social circle, the kind of person you could imagine yourself going out for a pint with? Because no, DeChambeau isn’t really one of those people. To begin with, he doesn’t really seem like a big pint drinker. He would probably hold it at face level, spin the liquid suspiciously, hit the glass with his fingernail a few times. You would probably have a lot of questions about viscosity and glycerol content.

DeChambeau with the championship trophy after winning the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot.
DeChambeau with the championship trophy after winning the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot. Photograph: Justin Lane / EPA

And then, unimpressed by your responses, you would probably disappear in search of more intellectual satisfaction, probably to the fruit machine, who has noticed you haven’t paid in 68 minutes and appears to have a distinct cherry bias.

But perhaps, when you are sitting on your couch with the television on, the calculation is a little different. Maybe you just want to entertain yourself.

Maybe you just want to see someone ridiculous doing something ridiculous.

Give me amazing feats and extravagant bodies. Give me your wiring and your weirdo. Give me a man who speaks ill of Augusta herself, who yells at the ball like a dog, who signs autographs with his left hand for no reason, who claimed in a GQ interview last year that he can live to “130 o 140 “. Give me a golfer who has something called a “muscle specialist” who trains so hard that every now and then he ends up on the brink of passing out.

This goes beyond the usual sports obsession. It really is a form of madness, the madness of the actor method starving for a role, or the artist sitting in a glass box for four days while people stab her with pencils, the madness of Eliud Kipchoge or Simone. Biles or Robert Lewandowski. We celebrate insanity not just because it pleases us, but because we know, on some level, that this is how we evolve: through experimentation and disruption and ridicule and suffering, the spark of understanding that hits the whole building a little. further down the road. process.

Perhaps that is why DeChambeau has inspired so much angst within golf. In a sense, this is a sport that has always been averse to change, distrustful of disruption, which on some level imagines itself as the last little oasis of sanity in an ever-maddening world. Spoiler alert: golf will be fine.

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Some tee boxes may need to be moved. Perhaps some 72 pairs will have to become 70 pairs. Perhaps in a more muscular, youth-oriented sport, some contenders will fall by the wayside (although since the top two at Sawgrass were the wiry Justin Thomas and Lee Westwood of 47 years, maybe the juiciness of golf will have to wait a little longer). But at the same time, perhaps a sport desperate to connect with new audiences has just stumbled upon its brightest and most engaging presence in years. DeChambeau can ruin golf. You can save golf. In the long run, the two will likely end up looking a lot alike.

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