SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Paul Casey’s usual man on the bag is John “Long Socks” McLaren, but because of health issues, he was replaced at LIV Golf Chicago by Matt Minister – otherwise known as “the Rev.”
The nicknames are a caddie thing … and for the purposes of this story, not particularly relevant.
Anyway, Casey and the Rev were on the course during Sunday’s final round at Rich Harvest Farms when they took note of the leaderboard. Casey’s captain on the Crushers GC team, Bryson DeChambeau, was making a move. A big one.
And when the Bryson train gets rolling, it’s one of the most impressive sights in professional golf.
“We saw his name pop up there, and we're like, uh-oh, here he goes,” Casey said. “Here we go, we've got another hot Bryson.”
Eight strokes down entering the round, Hot Bryson produced an 8-under 63 to capture his second individual LIV Golf title in his last three starts. The previous one last month at LIV Golf Greenbrier came with a 61-58 finish on the weekend, in case you’ve forgotten.
It’s a much-welcomed return to form – for Bryson, his Crushers team, LIV Golf and the sport in general – for a player who, when he’s on, can reach levels and gears few others can match.
The victory gives DeChambeau a shot at the season-long Individual Champion title in the regular-season finale at LIV Golf Jeddah on Oct. 13-15. He’s third in points and must find a way to get past No. 1 Cameron Smith and No. 2 Talor Gooch.
It didn’t seem thinkable a few months ago that DeChambeau would be one of the three players left standing. He started the LIV Golf season slowly – no top-15 finishes in his first five starts – and missed the cut at the Masters (Augusta National has rarely been kind to him).
But things started to click at LIV Golf Tulsa in May, his second-round 63 fueling a tie for fifth. He rode that momentum into the PGA Championship, grabbing the first-round lead with a 66 and finishing tied for fourth behind fellow LIV Golf Captain Brooks Koepka.
He nearly won in early July at Valderrama, shooting a second-round 63 to take the lead before succumbing to the equally hot hand of Gooch, who had to birdie his final two holes to avoid a playoff.
Then the week of Greenbrier, DeChambeau stuck a Krank Golf driver in his bag, increased his accuracy and confidence off the tee, produced 22 birdies in his last two rounds and has been practically unstoppable from tee to green ever since. An uncooperative putter might be his only Kryptonite, as it was in Bedminster when he tied for 18th.
Asked how this stretch compares to other hot stretches in his career, DeChambeau replied: “I think it's probably some of the best for sure. There's always stuff you can improve on, but consistently some of the best. Bedminster, I was still driving it really well. Three-putted seven times … I would have been in second place had I not three-putted. I cleaned that up this week and hit it pretty well.”
Added Casey: “It’s some of the best golf I’ve seen him ever play,”
“No doubt,” fellow Crusher Anirban Lahiri confirmed.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen this much of Hot Bryson.
In 2018, he won four times and climbed inside the world’s top five for the first time. Then in 2020, he won the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, essentially overpowering the course. He followed with another win later that year, as well as one in 2021.
But then Hot Bryson began to play more like Hulk Bryson, with his focus directed toward exacting every possible inch of distance by packing on muscle.
Meanwhile, other issues began to impact his game. Injuries to his hand and hip. A case of vertigo that wasn’t adequately addressed until late last year. The passing of his father last offseason. The continual search to find his place in the game and finding a comfortable spotlight as he’s turning 30 (which he did two weeks ago). The move to reshape his body again; more tone, less muscle and weight.
Early in 2022, several months before joining LIV Golf, DeChambeau was asked why he no longer wore a Hoganesque driver cap, which had become part of his brand. “I feel like I'm turning a bit of a page in my life, in my chapter and my book,” he replied.
Life-changing adjustments often take a while to sort out. Cap switches are easy, but most transformations aren’t always quick and clean. It’s like the new house DeChambeau is building in Dallas. The completion date constantly shifts.
“We’ve seen it coming,” Casey said. “This is no different than watching things trend. He’s a buy. You’ve got to back this horse.
“Honestly, Bryson is just scratching the surface. There's been a lot of … things that he's worked on, and I guess obstacles – things like greens books, certain rule changes, things like that, equipment, the long drive thing, there's all sorts of stuff. Building a house. There's a whole bunch of stuff that people know that we know. Your house will never be ready. He's figuring all these things out and he's just ticking them off. … the more he figures out, the less of those questions, the greater he is.
“I don't want to blow smoke, but he's got an unbelievable level of ability. It's not talent because there's talent, but then it's hard work and the thought process and everything behind it. We're just along for the ride, the three of us. We're just tagging along. But it's great to be part of that and help in a certain way because we benefit from it, as well.
“This is a level that we've seen before, but I think there's more to come.”
Still, the dynamics of winning a LIV Golf tournament are different than regular pro events, given the team component.
On Sunday, DeChambeau came out nowhere to overtake Lahiri, who was seeking to end an 8-year victory drought. Alas, Lahiri’s gritty effort ended with three-putt bogeys on two of his last four holes – including his final hole, the 18th – to open the door.
In the immediate aftermath, it was a strange mix of emotions for DeChambeau, who was happy for his own success and his team’s but felt sad for his teammate. He said he’d rather have gone to a playoff; Lahiri, for his part, considered it another step in the process toward his next win. Their mutual respect was evident in their post-round thoughts.
“I love you, Baan, but I’m sorry,” said DeChambeau, turning to his teammate during their post-round press conference. “I felt so bad.”
“No, no. We’re all trying to win,” replied Lahiri.
DeChambeau has won twice now in his last three starts, and the train doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. Hot Bryson is back. Enjoy the ride.