SILVIS — When Bryson DeChambeau captured an NCAA individual men’s golf title and a U.S. Amateur in the same year two seasons ago, his name was lumped with some of the game’s all-time greats.
Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore were the only other players to accomplish the double in the same season.
But since DeChambeau has turned professional, he has been ridiculed by galleries and golf analysts for his unorthodox methods.
The 23-year-old earned some vindication Sunday afternoon with his back-nine heroics at the John Deere Classic to claim his first PGA Tour victory.
“There has been a lot of talk,” DeChambeau said of his critics. “It is vindication. It’s definitely nice to have me win under such conditions.”
DeChambeau is very much a free spirit, much like his idol Payne Stewart. He has never been afraid to be different.
Until his win Sunday, DeChambeau was more known as a golfer whose irons are all 37 1/2 inches long. His swing stays on a single plane, considerably different from what is taught by instructors.
He’s been referred to as a mad scientist. It is like sitting through a physics class listening to him talk variables, data and analytics of the golf swing.
It is fitting given he was a physics major at Southern Methodist University.
“I try and make it a very complex variablistic game and try to understand it, to understand every single variable in this whole game of golf,” he said.
DeChambeau never has shied away from tinkering. He tried side saddle putting briefly, but had little success scoring.
And after five missed cuts in 10 starts as a pro last season and eight consecutive missed weekends between early April and late June this year, many have given him flak and expressed he should go back to traditional shaft lengths.
“I had somebody say, ‘Go back and get your old clubs,’” DeChambeau said. “This week (at the JDC) there was somebody that said that.
“It happens every week. I just throw it to the side and say, ‘’Don’t even worry about it. You’re going down the road you’ve chosen and you’re comfortable with it.’”
DeChambeau believes his methods are working. It showed with terrific ball striking and six birdies on the inward nine Sunday to beat Patrick Rodgers by a shot.
He didn’t miss a fairway in his opening round and hit 17 of 18 greens on Sunday.
“He went out and earned that win,” said Tim Tucker, DeChambeau’s caddie. “He showed a lot of courage and guts coming in.
“Coming down 15, I’m like, ‘You love this, don’t you?’ He just said, ‘Tim, if I can just get in this position to win, I know I can do it.’”
Aside from elevating his own game, DeChambeau is motivated to help we weekend hackers.
“I want to make it easier for the amateurs,” he said. “There is an easier way out there and people just haven’t figured it out. I hope I’m on the right track.
“People may think my golf swing is really weird and funky, but it’s one of the most consistent swings out here. If you look at it in its entirety in slow motion, there are not very many moving parts.”
DeChambeau became the ninth different player under the age of 25 to win a tournament on the Tour this year. Among those nine, they’ve won 14 times, the most on tour in 47 years.
He became the second player recently to earn a sponsor’s exemption from the JDC as an amateur and go on and win as a pro. Jordan Spieth did so, too.
Unlike Spieth who won at 19, it took DeChambeau some additional patience to find the winner’s circle.
“Jordan set the tone quite a bit for us, and I expected to — especially after winning the 2015 NCAAs and U.S. Amateur in the same year,” he said.
“I went into a bit of a lull trying to understand my golf swing a little bit more and was messing around with some things. Unfortunately, it took me off track, but I realized quickly what I needed to do to get back on track. It’s been Steady Eddie ever since.”