Bryson DeChambeau became the darling of the PGA Championship – is he the only man to join LIV and get MORE popular?

On the 10th tee of the final round of the PGA Championship, Bryson DeChambeau captured the hearts of the golf world. An older man reached in front of a young kid and snatched the ball DeChambeau had tossed to him. DeChambeau immediately halted, backtracked and confronted the man.

In the thick of the tournament, he wouldn’t have been blamed for missing it but instead, it became a move that earned him praise as a ‘man of the people’.

It was a long way from the beefy disruptor of the past few years but somehow, at Valhalla, DeChambeau completed his transformation from LIV Golf villain to the hero of the PGA Championship.

DeChambeau burst onto the scene in 2016 like a flat cap-wearing freight train. With single-length clubs, a fixation on speed and strength, an obsession with number crunching and incessant bulking, DeChambeau did little to endear himself to the fans and a lot to earn himself the Mad Scientist moniker.

He also certainly wasn’t the man of the players either, if Brooks Koepka’s infamous 2021 eye roll is anything to go by.

Bryson DeChambeau was praised as a ‘man of the people’ during the PGA Championship 

Yet, 12 months removed from a frosty reception at Oak Hill, DeChambeau found himself the darling of Valhalla.

Valhalla has always been a theater for the PGA. Mark Brooks won in a playoff on 18 in 1996. Tiger Woods finished a three-hole playoff on 18, holding off Cinderella man Bob May in 2000. Rory McIlroy clinched the 2014 PGA on No. 18 in a race against darkness and storms. This year, it was DeChambeau who stole the show.

He had electrified the 18th gallery, chipping in for eagle to finish his third round with a flourish. Unleashing a roar as he lunged into a fist-pump with the fans gathered in front of the sunlit clubhouse matching his passion.

‘Exhilarating,’ DeChambeau said of the moment following the round. ‘I haven’t felt like that in a long time.’

24 hours later, he performed an encore. As he and Viktor Hovland exchanged birdie blows to pile the pressure on Xander Schauffele, DeChambeau strutted around Valhalla with the panache of a showman, while the masses chanted, ‘Bryson, Bryson, Bryson.’

On the stage of the 18th green, he took his final bow. While he failed to replicate his eagle chip-in of the third round, DeChambeau’s birdie putt suspended over the edge of the cup before ultimately trickling in to tie Schauffele’s lead.

He threw his arms into the air as if he were to swan dive in after his ball before bellowing, ‘Let’s go,’ to the raucous crowd with one last shake of his fist.

The stage of a major championship demands a show and DeChambeau is an entertainer – something which the PGA Tour and its $20million signature events are severely lacking.

The 30-year-old joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit in 2022

The 30-year-old joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit in 2022

DeChambeau departed to the range where, as he fired off practice shots, in the periphery of his eyeline the big screen showed Schauffele stood over a birdie putt of his own on 18.

For 20 minutes, DeChambeau had enjoyed a slice of history with the lowest score at a major championship. For 20 minutes, the Wanamaker trophy had been halfway into his hands. Until Schauffele snatched it all away with a putt to take the victory.

DeChambeau, who had paused drilling his practice shots to watch the winning putt drop in, put away his club and immediately headed to the 18th green where he was one of the first to congratulate his rival on a major victory that was almost his.

‘Proud of Xander for finally getting the job done,’ DeChambeau said later. ‘I mean, he’s an amazing golfer and well-deserved major champion now.’

Long after Schauffele had hoisted the Wanamaker, instead of slipping into the shadows, DeChambeau was still signing autographs in the clubhouse car park.

It was an agonizing defeat, but one he accepted with poise and grace. It was also one that endeared him to the masses. He may not have left with a second major victory but he did leave with a new level of popularity. Captain of the Crushers, the fan favorite – who saw that coming?

Somehow DeChambeau took $100million from the Saudis, only to become infinitely more popular with fans of the PGA Tour. Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship last year but he nor his fellow rebels Cam Smith and Phil Mickelson moved the needle like DeChambeau did last week. 

Yet, those fans whose heads haven’t been turned by the ‘golf but louder’ agenda of the LIV Golf broadcast will be unfamiliar with the new DeChambeau.

Somehow DeChambeau took $100million from the Saudis, only to become more popular

Somehow DeChambeau took $100million from the Saudis, only to become more popular 

DeChambeau 2.0 is part-time LIV Golfer, part-time YouTuber – a brand he’s self-aware of and funneling into his off-course ventures.

‘When the moment comes, knowing what to do, what to say, how to act, is really important,’ said DeChambeau.

‘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.’

He boasts 613,000 subscribers on YouTube, which through his Break 50 series with the likes of golf glamour girl Paige Spiranac and challenge videos such as trick shots and rounds with Walmart clubs, offers a platform to see a lighthearted side of DeChambeau.

And along with one million followers on Instagram, he’s also attracted a new demographic of golf fans.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. It’s an old cliche but one that rang true at Valhalla. His former high-profile appeal is undoubtedly why LIV Golf wanted him, but while DeChambeau received a payday, he and his Mad Scientist persona have been locked behind a paywall.

Since his defection to LIV Golf, fans are only getting glimpses of DeChambeau – four times a year – but those who tuned in or watched from outside the ropes in Louisville saw a matured, entertaining, freer and more self-aware DeChambeau.

In his LIV exile amid golf’s civil war, DeChambeau has not only grown into a fan favorite but also grown closer to his peers. 

The American has begun making YouTube content featuring the likes of Paige Spiranac

The American has begun making YouTube content featuring the likes of Paige Spiranac 

For the socially awkward DeChambeau, LIV provided a fresh start. No one has bought into the team spirit more that the Crushers captain who gifted his team of Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri matching Rolex watches, Alan Shipnuck noted. 

‘He thrives with that social environment around him, which maybe doesn’t come naturally to him,’ Lahiri said in Shipnuck’s book, LIV and Let Die. 

‘But in this case, it’s not a matter of choice. The social element is very good for him. He enjoys the company, he enjoys the hang.’ 

DeChambeau is no longer living on his Golf Machine island. He’s truly assimilated and ingratiated himself into the game. 

When he abandoned the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in June 2022, he was still on his 3,500-calorie diet of meat, potatoes and protein shakes in an attempt to bulk up and improve his game.

The efforts were successful with the American reaching 17st and having the biggest average driving distance in the 2019-20 season at 322.1 yards.

DeChambeau with his Crushers teammates, Charles Howell III, Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey

DeChambeau with his Crushers teammates, Charles Howell III, Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey

But they were also making him sick. Doctors warned that his regime was taking years off his life. It was a wake up call that resulted in an 18-lb weight loss in 24 days.

Even without the added muscle, DeChambeau’s game last week still resembled the exquisite long drives and putting of his sole major victory at Winged Foot. DeChambeau has also shown maturity with a newfound respect that hallowed courses, such as Augusta and Valhalla, merit.

With his constant experimenting, obsessive fixation on number crunching, single-length clubs and bold claims, the eye-rolls at DeChambeau’s antics are often warranted but still, he’s a character golf needs.

A happier and healthier DeChambeau has entered the second act of his career and it’s box office. When he’s in contention at a major, it’s must-watch TV. 

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