Written by
Feb 27 2023

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Bryson DeChambeau is the youngest player on Crushers GC. His veteran teammates – Charles Howell III, Paul Casey and Anirban Lahiri – have 62 combined years of professional experience, with more than 2,200 career starts. They don’t need any hand-holding from their 29-year-old captain.

Nor is he interested in providing any. DeChambeau’s old college coach at SMU, Josh Gregory, always told his players “Do your own thing.” That’s how DeChambeau approaches his captaincy. During LIV Golf’s first offseason, the four Crushers were far too scattered to get together in person. So they did their own thing in preparing for the debut of the 2023 LIV Golf League, with its full 14-tournament schedule and stabilized rosters.

DeChambeau counted on everybody being ready to start the season at LIV Golf Mayakoba – and 54 holes later, they celebrated their first team victory, a resounding nine-stroke win over last year’s dominant squad, 4Aces GC.

“What’s going to make this team great is if everyone can do their own thing,” DeChambeau said while he and his team were still basking in their win. “They have their own recipes. They have their own secret sauce that makes them tick, makes their clock tick. So that’s what we did this offseason – and it’s obviously proven to pay off this week.”

Of course, it helps when one of the players shoots lights-out.

Producing arguably his finest performance in 23 years as a professional golfer, Howell claimed the individual title by four shots. His bogey-free 8-under 63 on Sunday goes down as one of the best rounds in LIV Golf’s short history. Meanwhile, his three-day total of 16 under accounted for 62% of the Crushers GC’s winning team score of 26 under.

It was a near-perfect performance on a course that Howell knows very well – and certainly better than anybody else in the 48-man field. He was making his 14th career professional start at El Camaleon, and while he had never won here before, he had a solid track record in those first 13 starts.

Having make the jump to LIV Golf last year to join DeChambeau’s team, Howell feared he may never see Mayakoba again. So when LIV added it to the 2023 schedule, he rejoiced. So did the rest of his family.

“I really love the resort,” Howell said. “My kids would leave me and disown me if we didn’t come back.”

It’s a course that fits Howell’s shotmaker game. Jungle on both sides penalizes errant shots, so the first priority is simply to keep your ball in the fairway. For the week, Howell hit 28 of 42 fairways, tying for second best in the field. And he ranked first in greens in regulation, hitting 79.63% (43 of 54). That meant he only had to scramble 11 times, and he converted 10 into par or better. His 90.91% led the field in that category, too.

His playing partners in the final round Sunday were 36-hole co-leaders Peter Uihlein and Talor Gooch. Howell, who started the day one stroke back, birdied six of his first eight holes to set the tone and take the lead. Uihlein and Gooch tried to keep up, but it finally all unraveled for them at the 12th hole with errant drives. Uihlein suffered a triple bogey, while Gooch’s bogey was the first of three straight.

“Our group of three hit seven tee balls off that tee,” Howell said. “Talor hit three drives and Peter hit three drives. That shows you how crazy it is. That can happen at any moment.

“I think that goes back to the team thing as well. You can see massive changes on a golf course like this. I know we won by a lot, but we were still grinding there towards the end.”

DeChambeau doesn’t worry about whether his team will take its collective foot off the gas. Even for the captain, the team competition kept him grinding for improved play. With three scores counting each round, he had not contributed a result in the first two days, and yet his team was still leading.

DeChambeau was determined to help out Sunday. He did so with a 3-under 68, his only round under par this week.

“My game is definitely trending in the right direction,” DeChambeau said. “I’m figuring a lot of stuff out with my swing. Happy about that. But I needed to shoot a good one today for these guys because I’ve been struggling a little bit. Thankfully, I’ve had a great team to kind of push me forward and say, ‘Hey, come on, get your act together, let’s go.’ I see them playing really well.

“To see Chucky shooting what he did, it’s inspiring. To me, it makes me work harder and makes me want to grind [on] every single shot. Today, I’ll tell you out there, I was fighting like I was playing for an individual title.”

Last season, the Crushers were close to winning a team trophy, with two seconds and a third after DeChambeau settled on his final roster. Always seeking answers, the captain concentrated solely on his game, confident his teammates could find their own answers.

“One thing I’ll give Bryson as captain is he lets us down what we think is best for us because everybody has a different formula and recipe,” Howell said. “Paul and I are dinosaurs out here, so we’re kind of stuck in our ways. All credit to Bryson on that. As captain and leader, he lets us kind of do how we prepare and what makes us play our best.”

Still, good teams need the right chemistry, and as the chief Mad Scientist, DeChambeau made sure his players knew this was more than simply showing up for the shotgun start. During last year’s LIV Golf Bangkok, the four Crushers held a team dinner.

“We said, all right guys, there’s going to be four of us, we’re going to do this, we’re in this for the long run, let’s bank on each other, trust each other,” Lahiri recalled. “I think right through the offseason, it wasn’t like, ‘What’s going to happen with my team?’ It was the implicit kind of trust in each other that we had towards the end of last year.”

Added Casey: “There’s a great synergy in this team, and there’s glue that sticks us all together. This is not hard work. This is really, really easy hanging out with these three guys and trying to play amazing golf.”

Certainly Howell found a different level of amazing at Mayakoba. And while the individual reward was lucrative, the team’s success may have been more satisfying.

“I’m perfectly fine letting myself down. I don’t want to disappoint these guys,” Howell said.

The empty champagne bottles on the podium told the story Sunday. The Crushers did not leave Mayakoba disappointed.