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THE REVIEWS ARE IN: BRYSON IS GOLF’S MUST-SEE ENTERTAINER

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
May 28 2024
- 8 MIN
Bryson hands up

The chip shot from 51 yards took three bounces and then darted right into the cup. Not exactly the conventional way to eagle a par 5, but the gallery surrounding the green certainly appreciated it. Hearing the applause, Bryson DeChambeau did what any professional showman would do. He doffed his cap and took a bow.

That scene took place near the end of his first round at the recent PGA Championship. Two days later, DeChambeau would hole out for another eagle to conclude his third round, reacting in a more exuberant, feisty manner by dropping to one knee while punching the air with his fist. The day after that, he nearly stole the show, and the championship, with a sizzling bogey-free 64, the lowest round of his major career.

Although DeChambeau came up one shot shy of forcing a playoff with Xander Schauffele, he emerged as the People’s Champion at Valhalla. He reminded golf fans that when it comes to entertainment value, he has few equals. His ability to perform at a high level while also playing to the crowd was never more evident that during his four rounds in Louisville.

Once the Mad Scientist, he’s now the Master Showman. No surprise that the reviews were glowing.

“Unquestioned main attraction” – Golf Digest

“Full-on frenzy of excitement” – Golfweek

“’Genius’ just doesn’t suffice” – Golf magazine

“What a show” – Associated Press

Concluded Golfweek: “The game of golf is in desperate need of characters, and the PGA Championship was better off thanks to DeChambeau.”

He was box office gold. Final-round ratings were up 10% from the previous year, despite going against an NBA playoff game involving a team from the country’s biggest market, New York. The final hour of PGA coverage averaged 7.8 million viewers.

When DeChambeau birdied the 72nd hole to move into a tie (albeit temporarily) for the lead, the roars were among the loudest all day around the green. Chants of “Bryson! Bryson! Bryson!” could be heard from the appreciative gallery. When he walked through the sea of fans en route to the scorer’s tent, the only person not flashing a smile was DeChambeau himself, as he maintained a stoic game face in anticipation of a playoff that never happened.

In the aftermath, three-time major champion Padraig Harrington seemed to speak for the entire golf world when he said, “What I realized last week, god, we miss Bryson. Bryson was box office last week and really, really helped that tournament. … It was fantastic, interesting, exciting watching.”

For those who have maintained a close watch on DeChambeau through the years, it’s no surprise that he’s become the Must-See Golfer. His unique approach (re: single-length clubs, 3D irons) and extreme pursuit of distance (re: his bulked-up phase) helped carve out a unique identity in a sport that thirsts for colorful characters.

Meanwhile, DeChambeau has grown more comfortable with the spotlight, and his jump to LIV Golf two years ago to become the Crushers GC captain provided him the freedom and incentive to create content that not only builds his brand but also builds interest in the sport, especially with the younger demographic.

“Obviously we all want to win trophies,” DeChambeau said. “But being able to entertain the fans is what we’re all here to do, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

He doesn’t limit himself to just live performances. Taking cues from social media stars such as MrBeast (260 million YouTube subscribers, highest total of any English-language channel), DeChambeau and his team of content creators are producing unique content that goes beyond simple highlights and instructional videos. 

His Break50 and 9-hole matches put the viewer inside the ropes as a non-playing partner, while off-beat videos like his Random Club Challenges – last month, he attempted to break par with a $109 Walmart starter set – appeal to the less-serious nature of the game.

Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. DeChambeau now has 625,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, nearly doubling the number from 18 months ago. Late last week, his total video views reached 70 million, nearly a third of that coming in the last 90 days. Add in his 1.1 million Instagram followers and other followers across all social channels, and he’s at 2.5 million and counting.

Meanwhile, he’s also increasing his reach thanks to collaborations with influencers such as Rick Shiels (2.8 million YouTube subscribers) and Paige Spiranac (4 million Instagram followers). 

Asked about his aggressive foray into viral content, DeChambeau eyes lit up as he recalled the moment when he saw a “missing hole in the game of golf” while recognizing an opportunity to positively influence millions of people.

“I saw that market back in 2020. I said, man, if golf could tap into that just a little bit, how many more followers we would get, how many more players we would get, how the game would just explode if we could just barely tap into a percent or a couple percent of that,” DeChambeau explained. 

“MrBeast has a couple hundred million followers and subscribers on one platform. He's got like close to a billion followers on all of his platforms. You just look at that, and the possibilities that come with garnering that type of audience is so unique that I thought it was not only important but necessary for someone to get involved with the social media space and create cool, unique, different content that allows this game to grow.”

Sitting next to DeChambeau and listening with admiration was Phil Mickelson, the 53-year-old who knows a thing or two about viral videos. But even the HyFlyers GC captain acknowledges that his grasp of the influencer world pales in comparison to his younger counterpart.

“Bryson has a beat and understanding on social media that I'm late to the party [on], that I don't fully understand, and I've been spending time with him, and I've been starting to understand it more and more,” Mickelson said.

Of course, having the desire is one thing. Being able to engage is the key. Even while maintaining his persona as a golf nerd willing to explore and embrace non-traditional methods to improve, DeChambeau is now putting himself front and center instead of working the perimeter. 

Part of that is simple maturity and experience. Being captain of his own LIV Golf team also gives him a platform to speak his mind while also interacting with his three older teammates Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri. Meanwhile, he hasn’t shied from voicing strong opinions with LIV Golf League matters as well as the current state of golf itself.

It requires being relevant, though. Thanks to key equipment moves, DeChambeau is playing some of the best golf in his career. He won two individual LIV Golf titles last season – including his celebrated 61-58 weekend at Greenbrier – and his Crushers claimed the season-long Team Championship. 

His team leads the points standings this year thanks to two wins. DeChambeau has yet to win an individual title in 2024, but his two major starts this year have him feeling uber-confident about his game. His tie for sixth at the Masters was his best-ever result at Augusta National, and his 20-under total at the PGA Championship would’ve been good enough to win any of the previous 467 majors. Solo second was nothing to be ashamed of in Valhalla.

He didn’t win the Wanamaker. But he did win over the crowd. The celebrations, the high-fives, the primal screams – nobody seemed to have more fun at the PGA Championship than DeChambeau.

He knows the value, and golf’s potential reward, of being an entertainer. YouTube, he said, has helped him understand the importance of engagement. Of realizing the benefits of giving the people what they want. Of living in the moment – and organically reacting to it.

“When the moment comes, knowing what to do, what to say, how to act is really important,” he said. “You know, when I was younger, I didn't understand what it was. Yeah, I would have great celebrations and whatnot, but I didn't know what it meant and what I was doing it necessarily for. 

“Now I'm doing it a lot more for the fans and for the people around and trying to be a bit of an entertainer that plays good golf every once in a while.”

For the very best entertainers, there’s always an encore. For DeChambeau, that means four LIV Golf starts in three different countries over the summer period, along with the year's final two majors. He’ll then follow it with the final three LIV Golf events of the season, including his team’s defense of the Team Championship in September.

It’s a busy next few months, but DeChambeau wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, the people need to be entertained. Whether it’s in-person or on YouTube, the show must go on.

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