Publish date:

All Eyes are on Bryson DeChambeau at the Ryder Cup, for Better or Worse

He has a losing Ryder Cup record in his lone appearance, but the big-hitting DeChambeau moves the needle in a big way, writes Morning Read's Alex Miceli.
Bryson DeChambeau hits a tee shot during a practice round Tuesday at Whistling Straits.

Bryson DeChambeau hits a tee shot during a practice round Tuesday at Whistling Straits.

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Bryson DeChambeau and Ryder Cup needle mover seems an odd combination.

Especially considering it is only DeChambeau’s second Ryder Cup, his first was a 0-3-0 debacle that included 5-and-4 losses when partnered with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in France. It seems unlikely that three short years later, needle mover and DeChambeau would be used in the same sentence.

Yet, that is exactly what DeChambeau brings to a USA team that seems devoid of genuine pop.

In the last 50 years there have been few who could be considered needle movers. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods are the obvious and longest in duration. In more recent years and for a lesser time, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Mickelson. 

Today the crown goes to DeChambeau.

His relentless pursuit of distance off the tee has captivated fans and even forced some pros, like McIlroy, to reassess their own games.

Not since Woods has a player’s work ethic or aspect of his game permeated the professional landscape.

It was true that not everyone jumped on the fitness bandwagon when Woods was at the forefront of that movement. It is also true that not everyone is now trying to squeeze every ounce of speed out of their swing, but as more and more teams are going on fourth down in the NFL and going against the conventional wisdom, players are looking more at trying to gain length, tossing the course-management book out the window.

Watching DeChambeau come out of his shoes as he swings for the fences is electrifying.

Palmer was a gunslinger that took mighty lashes off the tee, not concerned with anything but hitting it hard, finding it and hitting it again.

While Nicklaus would win much more, Palmer eventually became "The King”, the ultimate pitch man, fan favorite and needle mover.

DeChambeau is like Palmer, swinging as hard as he can, finding it and then taking another whack.

Listen to DeChambeau talk about dissecting Pete Dye’s Whistling Straits course.

“I think there are numerous amounts of holes that are super beneficial to me hitting driver,” said DeChambeau on Tuesday during his first press conference in what seems like months. “I think 5 is a great example if it's the right wind. I could pretty much go right at the flag, which is cool. It was here in the practice session, and I had like 120 yards in to that green.”

The 5th at the Straits is a 603-yard par-5 that is designed like a snake, protected by water on both the right and left sides.

So, after doing the math, you realize that DeChambeau is talking about carrying an enormous distance to have that short of an approach.

Of course, he did throw in that the cool temperatures may negate some of his length this week.

Things like this are what makes DeChambeau a must-watch.

Will U.S. Captain Steve Stricker play him in foursomes or just fourball? Will he play with Scottie Scheffler or will Justin Thomas or Spieth be partnered with him at some point?

More than any other player, what DeChambeau does and how he is used is what the assembled media talks about.

But there are issues, including his on-again now off-again feud with Brooks Koepka or his recent spat with the media.

It can be argued that the Koepka situation enhanced DeChambeau’s needle-mover status, keeping his name front and center in the news even when his game wasn’t up to snuff.

Like many players, ignoring the media is nothing new when they can use social media to communicate with fans.

Of course, Palmer didn’t have social media and print journalists were an important part of what made Palmer so popular. When television finally found golf, Palmer was a natural.

A winning record this week for DeChambeau would continue to enhance his needle-mover status.

But how he handles this week — both with his clubs and his demeanor — could move him the next step toward the ultimate needle mover of his lifetime, Woods. Even today, no matter what the news is on or off the course, Woods is still the most important player in golf.