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Bryson DeChambeau wins 124th U.S. Open, evokes memory of Payne Stewart

PINEHURST, N.C. – They shared an alma mater, a preference in headwear and won a U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 with incredible par saves. And now they are both two-time U.S. Open champions.

The link between Payne Stewart and Bryson DeChambeau was strengthened Sunday at the venue where he authored one of golf’s most incredible stories, a tale where inspiration and tragedy were intermingled. Both Stewart and DeChambeau are products of SMU and wore the flat cap that one of the game’s legends, Ben Hogan, made famous.

Payne Stewart is immortalized in a statue behind the 18th green on Pinehurst No. 2, and that same silhouette was emblazoned on the flag that stood sentry on the U.S. Open’s final hole Sunday, as well as the grandstands that lined it. Sunday’s hole location on the 18th green was the same one that was used in 1999, when Stewart made a 25-foot par putt to win his first major in eight years. His life was cut short in a plane accident just four months later.

This year’s U.S. Open marked the 25th anniversary of Stewart’s victory, and DeChambeau won it with an improbable par of his own on the final hole. Like Stewart, DeChambeau missed the 18th fairway with his drive. Pinehurst has undergone a radical transformation since Stewart’s victory, and so instead of the thick Bermudagrass rough that Stewart’s ball lay buried in, DeChambeau’s ball was surrounded by wiregrass, weeds and a tree root that had him worried about his wrist. His backswing was obstructed by the branch of a tree, as well.

Barely able to swing the club past waist-high, DeChambeau whacked a low shot that ran across the fairway and into a bunker, 50 yards from the hole. His next shot landed in the middle of the green, about 30 feet from the hole, before rolling to 4 feet. DeChambeau said the encouragement from his caddie, Greg Bodine, before he hit his third shot was the most memorable moment of the back nine.

“You got this shot,” Bodine told his boss. “I’ve seen way harder shots pulled off from you.”

It left him a much shorter putt than Stewart, but it was a similar length to the par putt that Rory McIlroy missed just moments earlier, the one that gave the lead back to DeChambeau.

His par on the final hole gave DeChambeau a 1-over 71 in the final round and a four-round total of 6-under 274. McIlroy, after bogeys on three on the final four holes, shot 69 to finish one shot back. Tony Finau (67) and Patrick Cantlay (70) finished third at 4 under par.

DeChambeau’s win came four years after he won the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and followed his sixth-place finish at this year’s Masters and runner-up at the PGA Championship, where he finished a stroke behind Xander Schauffele.

“I’m so happy I got that shot up-and-down on 18,” DeChambeau said Sunday. “Oh, man, I didn’t want to finish second again. PGA really stung. Xander played magnificent. I wanted to get this one done, especially at such a special place that means so much to me, SMU, my dad, what Payne meant to him, 1,000th USGA championship. Stack them on top. That bunker shot was the shot of my life.”

DeChambeau led the U.S. Open field in Driving Distance and was seventh in Greens Hit despite finishing near the bottom of the field in Driving Accuracy. He also was 10th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

DeChambeau won a duel that also was reminiscent of Stewart’s win here a quarter-century ago.

DeChambeau started the day with a three-shot lead, but he and McIlroy were tied after the latter made birdies on 9 and 10. DeChambeau regained the lead with a birdie of his own on No. 10.

McIlroy birdied Nos. 12 and 13, and was two ahead after DeChambeau bogeyed the 12th hole.

“When I turned the corner and saw I was a couple back, I said, ‘Nope, I’m not going to let that happen. I have to focus on figuring out how to make this happen,’” DeChambeau said. He was able to grind out pars despite just hitting just one of the final eight fairways, but he was helped by McIlroy’s short misses on the final holes.

McIlroy made three putts of 15 feet or longer in his run of four birdies in a five-hole span; the other came on a 5-footer after he drove it through the green on the short 13th.

DeChambeau drove that hole and two-putted for birdie to draw within one. He and McIlroy were briefly tied after McIlroy’s bogey at the par-3 15th, where he hit his tee shot over the green, but then DeChambeau three-putted the same hole, missing a 4-foot par putt.

McIlroy followed with short misses of his own, ones that will likely haunt him and come on the heels of heartbreaking losses in the 2022 Open at St. Andrews and last year’s U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.

McIlroy three-putted the 16th, missing a 2.5-footer for par, and then missed a 4-foot par putt at the last green. McIlroy did not speak to the media after his round.

“After my tee shot (on 18), I was up there going, ‘Man, if he makes par, I don’t know how I’m going to beat him,’” DeChambeau said. “I just really didn’t know. Then I heard the moans. Like a shot of adrenaline got in me. I said, ‘Okay, you can do this.’”

He did. DeChambeau is a major champion once again.