Winning with physics
Unless you are a person who, like Mark Twain, thinks golf is a good walk spoiled, you know that Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open, held Sept. 17 through the 20th, in a rather controversial manner.
DeChambeau gained 40 pounds of muscle during the coronavirus time away from the game, and came back on tour looking more like a linebacker seeking to drive a quarterback into the ground than a golfer trying to drive a wee little ball a reasonable distance.
There was nothing reasonable about the distances he drove the ball at the difficult Winged Foot golf course. For a weekend golfer, a 250 yard drive is considered a solid achievement. DeChambeau routinely exceeded that mark by the length of a football field. He was hitting driver — wedge into holes the members play as par fives.
Bobby Jones, the great amateur of the last century, reportedly said, after watching Jack Nicklaus hit balls into the stratosphere, “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.” Mr. Nicklaus might be thinking the same thing of DeChambeau.
The old guard seem to be shaking their heads, wondering what this world is coming to when athletes treat the art of golf like any other game and learn to tune their bodies to act like machines. “Tut, Tut,” they seem to say. “Not quite sporting, what old chap?”
One of the things we Americans should be proud of is that if there is a better or new way of doing something, we will figure it out, use it, and try to win with it, whatever the game. Comes, I expect, from being a people who got on board some leaky sailing ship, crossed an ocean to a place we knew only through rumors, and got to work to make things better. Old ways were left in the old world.
DeChambeau majored in physics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, so it is not surprising that he was a quick convert to a golf discipline invented by Homer Kelly in his book, “The Golfing Machine.” Kelly used terms like acummulators, levers, pivots and fulcrums that left most readers with their eyes crossed. Golf for engineers or physics majors.
Well, DeChambeau was a physics major and had his eyes right on the prize, overwhelming a course that I can tell you from experience is a monster, even when it is not summoned into the form conjured up for a U.S. Open. He also opened a door into the future and showed us a game with which none of us are familiar. How appropriate that it was in the U.S. Open, America’s championship; and if the rest of us want to keep up, we had better dust off those old physics textbooks, whip up a few protein shakes, and start hitting the ball like a machine.
Millerton resident Theodore Kneeland is a former teacher and coach — and athlete.