With a Remarkable Final-Hole Par, Bryson DeChambeau Prevails on Wild U.S. Open Sunday

Rory McIlroy left the door open but the 2020 U.S. Open winner still had to walk through it with what will be remembered as an all-time bunker shot at Pinehurst No. 2.
This blast from a bunker at 18 by Bryson DeChambeau will go down as one of the U.S. Open's great final-hole clutch shots.
This blast from a bunker at 18 by Bryson DeChambeau will go down as one of the U.S. Open's great final-hole clutch shots. / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

PINEHURST, N.C. — You could hear the celebratory chants and cheers from the other side of the Pinehurst clubhouse, Bryson DeChambeau barely having signed his scorecard with the U.S. Open trophy soon to be paraded around the premises, pure jubilation.

A matter of moments had passed since the winning putt dropped into the cup, with DeChambeau having produced one of the all-time pars from a greenside bunker to punctuate a stunning finish to a remarkable championship.

And that’s when Rory McIlroy and members of his team including his agent and caddie made a hasty departure, piling into a tournament-provided Lexus TX 350. With McIlroy driving, the car backed out of its space and quickly sped out of the parking lot in hellish frustration.

His private plane, via tracking site radaratlas2, was in the air 53 minutes after DeChambeau’s 18th-green fist pumps.

Even the TSA agents must have felt bad for him.

As remarkable as DeChambeau’s finish at Pinehurst No. 2 was to produce a second U.S. Open title, McIlroy’s collapse was stunning. The tournament will undoubtedly be remembered as much for McIlroy’s unraveling as it will for DeChambeau’s brilliance.

McIlroy seemingly had a fifth major title in his grasp and certainly had a spot in a playoff locked up but bogeyed three of the last four holes, including missed putts from 2 feet, 6 inches at the 16th and 3 feet, 9 inches at the 18th.

That allowed DeChambeau, playing a group behind, to win with a par that was anything but routine, hitting a 55-yard bunker shot to inside of 4 feet and holing the winning putt.

McIlroy, understandably distraught, saw a chance for a first major title in 10 years vanish under the glaring heat of the final round drama, and there’s simply no escaping the hard facts: he had not missed a putt inside 3 feet all year—496 of them—and hadn’t missed inside 5 feet all week.

He left just as quickly as it all unraveled. The questions to be answered another time.

“Rory is one of the best to ever play,” DeChambeau said. “Being able to fight against a great like that is pretty special. For him to miss that putt, I'd never wish it on anybody. It just happened to play out that way.

“He'll win multiple more major championships. There's no doubt. I think that fire in him is going to continue to grow. I have nothing but respect for how he plays the game of golf because, to be honest, when he was climbing up the leaderboard, he was two ahead, I was like, Uh-oh, uh-oh. But luckily things went my way today.”

DeChambeau, who was classy in defeat last month when Xander Schauffele beat him by a stroke at the PGA Championship, was just as much in victory to laud McIlroy—who actually may not ever get it done after the way this went down.

The loss at St. Andrews to Cam Smith two years ago was tough, just as last year’s U.S. Open defeat at Los Angeles Country Club to Wyndham Clark stung. But McIlroy led by two strokes with five holes to play and couldn’t close it out.

Credit DeChambeau, whose resurgence in the last year has been nothing short of remarkable. From virtually no success at all on the LIV Golf Tour to now contending in three of the last six majors and winning one of them is a remarkable turnaround.

But he did not do it with his best stuff Sunday. DeChambeau, for some reason, changed the head on his driver roughly 30 minutes prior to the final round. He admitted afterward he probably should not have done so. He hit just 5 of 14 fairways and just 11 of 18 greens. He made only two birdies and shot 1-over-par 71, his highest score of the week.

And when McIlroy got up and down from behind the 13th green for his fifth birdie of the day, he was 8 under par and leading by two shots.

But DeChambeau matched that birdie on 13 and then appeared to make a fatal mistake with his first three-putt of the week at the 15th hole. McIlroy, however, showed the first sign of distress, missing from less than 3 feet at the 16th to fall back into a tie.

Both players parred the 17th and then McIlroy pulled his drive into the brush left of the 18th fairway. He had just 123 yards left but appeared to have an awkward lie, the ball emerging low and running up short of the green, some 90 feet from the hole. He hit a nice chip to just under 4 feet—and missed.

It was a dramatic turn of events when a two-hole aggregate playoff seemed imminent.

But DeChambeau had his own issues. He, too, found the area left of the fairway and sought relief from a rules official, believing a temporary immovable obstruction was in his way. But David Rickman, an R&A rules official who will serve as chief referee next month at Royal Troon, denied DeChambeau a drop.

So he played into the front right bunker and from there a bogey appeared inevitable.

“It’s really difficult,” said Matthieu Pavon, who played with DeChambeau and finished fifth, three shots back. “You can’t really be long. But this is what I said to the guys. What’s most impressive about Bryson is not that he hits the ball far. Everybody knows it. But I was amazed by the quality of the short game. It’s master-class. Short game on 8, up and down, was really, really clutch.

“He’s a hell of a player. He has no weakness, and he’s truly a great champion.”

Pavon, who was bidding to become the first player from France to win the U.S. Open, is rather new to the major-championship scene. He got his first big victory last fall when he won the Spanish Open and earned a place on the PGA Tour through the DP World Tour. Earlier this year, he won the Farmers Insurance Open.

That earned him a spot in the Masters, where he said he met DeChambeau for the first time.

“And he was that guy, super nice, super polite that came to me and congratulated me for my win at Torrey,” Pavon said. “This is the type of things you never forget because for me, in the golf industry I'm nobody, and when you have a major champion and a guy like him, very well-known from everybody worldwide, when he just comes to you and has very simple words like this, it's really meaningful.”

Pavon was on the green and watched DeChambeau play that shot and openly cheered as he saw it roll up toward the hole.

“I knew there was a decent chance that he could get a good look at it,” said Greg Bodine, DeChambeau’s caddie. “But still, it’s a 55-yard bunker shot. It could come up short on the false front and then you’re staring double (bogey) in the face. If it goes long, you’re looking at a 25-footer.

“But his short game is very underrated. I told people he’s going to chip a lot. Obviously you don’t want a 50-yard bunker shot to get up and down to win the U.S. Open. But I wasn’t shocked when he hit to 4 feet.”

DeChambeau has given a lot of credit to Bodine since coming on board just before the PGA Championship last year. The two had never worked together, but since then he finished fourth at the PGA, won twice with LIV including shooting a 58 in the final round of the Greenbrier event, and now has three top-six finishes in the major championships this year.

The victory moved DeChambeau to 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, another impressive feat given the inability to earn any points at all playing for LIV. The win gives him another 10 years in the U.S. Open as well as in the other three major championships through 2029.

“That bunker shot was the shot of my life,” DeChambeau said. “I'll forever be thankful that I've got longer wedges so I can hit it farther, get it up there next to the hole (smiling).

“I don't know what to think. It fully hasn't sunk in yet. I just want everybody to enjoy it, as well. As much as it is heartbreaking for some people, it was heartbreak for me at the PGA. I really wanted this one. When I turned the corner and saw I was a couple back, I said, “Nope, I'm not going to let that happen. I have to focus on figuring out how to make this happen.’”

“I was a little lucky. Rory didn't make a couple putts that he could have coming in. I had an amazing up-and-down on the last. I don't know what else to say. It's a dream come true.”

For McIlroy, the nightmare endures.

 


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior writer covering golf for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience on the beat, including 15 at ESPN. Harig is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, "DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods" and "Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry." He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Harig, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Fla.