Bryson DeChambeau didn’t win the Professional Long Drivers Association’s World Championship this week, but then again, he didn’t expect to. This was his first trip down the path into the world of long golf, and he was up against the fastest swingers in the game – guys who specialise in this field and have done for years.
DeChambeau winning the long drive world championships would have been as surprising as the winner in Mesquite, Nevada, on Friday scooping one of golf’s four majors. Golf tournaments and long-ball are very different. That didn’t matter to DeChambeau, however. He entered this tournament to have fun.
The world number seven went a lot deeper in the tournament than anyone expected he would – further than he even expected, judging by some of his reactions to a few of his shots, including his 406-yard drive in the last 16 stages of the tournament.
Dechambeau made it to the final eight; his early tournament 412-yard drive was his longest, but he consistently hit drives in the high 300s, which took him to the last day’s round-robin stage of the tournament, where he finished eighth to sneak into the quarterfinals.
He showed tremendous focus in that final set of the last 16 to reach the last eight, as he did in being part of the team that lifted The Ryder Cup only a few days previously. He needed to win a set to reach the quarters, and Ryan Gregnol was a formidable opponent. Unfortunately for Gregnol, he suffered a groin injury midway through the set of six balls. DeChambeau showed genuine concern for his opponent as he was helped from the tee, having fallen to the ground with the injury, but he quickly regained his focus to win the set and advance to the quarters.
The final eight were divided into two groups of four, with the top two from each group progressing to the semifinals. Unfortunately for DeChambeau, his drive of 391 yards wasn’t enough, with Justin James and Martin Borgmeier progressing with distances of 391 and 303 yards, respectively. DeChambeau finished third in the set.
The tournament started on Tuesday, just 40 hours after the culmination of The Ryder Cup, with 80 participants teeing off. Sixty-four players made it to Wednesday, thirty-two made it to Thursday, and the top sixteen squared off on Friday. Dechambeau’s ball speed steadily increased throughout the week, reaching 219 mph on Friday.
Last year’s tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic, but defending champion, 2019 winner Kyle Berkshire and Justin James, the 2017 champion, made the final. With a breathtaking drive of 422 yards, Berkshire prevailed to defend his title successfully.
Despite falling short, Dechambeau enjoyed participating in the tournament and surpassed his expectations by making the quarter-finals.
“Not even final 16, I thought I’d make it to the round of 32, but getting to the top 16 is pretty sweet,” he said when discussing his pre-event expectations and reaching the last 16 on Thursday. “To say you’re one of the top 16 long drivers in the world and one of the longest drivers in the world is pretty sweet.”
DeChambeau’s participation certainly shone some extra light on the sport of long ball, with over 40,000 viewers tuning into YouTube on Friday to watch the final day unfold.
“Just be a part of it and encourage them as much as possible,” DeChambeau said on Friday when he was asked about his continued advocacy of this sport. “Tell them that if they work on their wedge games, they can be on the Korn Ferry Tour and be on the PGA TOUR … they are good enough.”
That in no way diminished the speed that DeChambeau showed.
DeChambeau has found a way to play successfully on the PGA Tour with distance and speed, which he believes gives him an edge. He finished the 2020-21 season with an average driving distance of 323.7 yards, top of the driving distance chart. Three of his eight wins on Tour, including his U.S Open victory, have come following his change of playing style, which included him bulking up, and he went 2-0-1 at last weeks Ryder Cup.
Controversy seems to follow Bryson DeChambeau wherever he goes. He has a childish side of his character, but that is why his appearance at the Long Ball World Championships was so compelling. He was having fun. Just a grown-up kid with a ball and a driver trying to smash it as far as he possibly could.
Following seven hectic days that included winning The Ryder Cup then his participation in Long Drive World Championships, DeChabeau will now take a break from the game, with his next tournament likely to be the Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas in eight weeks.
He can enjoy his break, though, knowing that he isn’t just the seventh-best golfer on the planet but also the sixth-longest hitter.