Bryson DeChambeau was feeling it after winning the Memorial Tournament on Sunday in a two-hole playoff, which is surprising to those who consider the 24-year-old a math geek whose love for numbers trumps all emotional touch.
His message for them: "Whenever you look at somebody, don’t judge them by the cover, right?"
DeChambeau’s cover is a paper mache layer of swing planes, launch angles and physics problems, but he stressed that his game still comes down to feel and touch.
"People always kind of scrutinize me, saying I’m too technical ... but it’s all just to aid my feel," he said.
That feel found a friend on the second playoff hole when DeChambeau drained a 12-foot birdie putt to defeat Byeong Hun An and win the 43rd Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
The downhill putt put a positive spin on what was a train wreck of the first playoff hole and final hole of regulation, when three players — DeChambeau, An and Kyle Stanley — all had chances to win but managed to mess up.
Stanley’s downfall was the most dramatic, if only because it was the most unusual. After making four consecutive birdies (holes 14 to 17) to catch DeChambeau at 16 under heading to 18, the 30-year-old teed off on the final hole and hit a beauty. Almost.
His drive caught a tree branch halfway down the right side of the fairway just enough to ricochet the ball across the fairway and into the left rough. From there he made bogey.
Smelling blood — his own, as it turned out — DeChambeau flew his approach onto the green but 50 feet from the cup, dropped a "Are you kidding me?" and three-putted to force the fourth playoff in the past five Memorials, but first in tournament history with more than two players.
Stanley bogeyed the first playoff hole — No. 18 — to make it a two-player contest, and An looked to be out of it on the second playoff hole — No. 18 again — when he pulled his approach shot onto a spectator platform. As DeChambeau watched from the green, having hit his approach to 12 feet, An took a drop and hit a flop wedge out of the rough within kick-in distance of an impressive par.
The 26-year-old South Korean never got a chance to make the putt, as DeChambeau buried his birdie look for his second PGA Tour win.
"It’s good to play extra holes, obviously. I wasn’t expecting that," An said. "But it would have been better if I took the trophy."
If not for his ability to escape trouble, DeChambeau likely never would have received the congratulatory handshake from tournament host Jack Nicklaus. The California native hit only five of 14 fairways but still found a way to get the ball in the hole. He was 5 of 6 in scrambling opportunities Sunday and topped the field in that category for the week.
"He didn’t have his A-game going out, but stayed with it and finished with an A-win," Nicklaus said.
DeChambeau credited his father, who has been through a litany of injuries, ailments and surgeries, with helping instill in him the perseverance necessary to ride out the tough times. Or in the case of missed fairways, the rough times.
"One little saying that we have always had is just keep swimming," DeChambeau said. "Just keep going. It’s from ‘Nemo’ — the dumbest little thing — but it’s true."
The final round had its share of players who tried to get it going, including Tiger Woods, who made an early move, but his putter again betrayed him on the back nine and he finished tied for 23rd at 9-under. Joaquin Neimann, who at 19 was bidding to becoming the youngest Memorial champion, shot 1 over to finish in a tie for sixth.
The win was worth $1.6 million to DeChambeau and moves him into eighth on the Ryder Cup points list.
"Making the Ryder Cup team is obviously my No. 1 priority, if I don’t do anything else this year," he said.
After Sunday, he has already done a lot.