The Week Grip — “I Don’t Think Bryson’s That Smart”
Welcome to the ninth installment of the Week Grip! Click here for the others, and follow along throughout 2019.
The Shotgun Start podcast has quickly become one of my go-to audio choices. Hosted by Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg and Brendan Porath of SBNation, it’s a funny, informative, and almost totally unfiltered look at the golf world. And on a recent episode, Andy said something that kind of stopped me in my tracks. Skip to 21:00 for the discussion, or 22:50 for Andy’s take.
Although, based on the headline of the article, I’m guessing you can figure it out. And quite simply, I agree.
Bryson DeChambeau hit the PGA Tour with a ton of fanfare due to his unusual approach to the game. He was dubbed “the mad scientist” because of his single-length irons, unique one-plane swing, and well-publicized studies in the physics department while at SMU. It was kind of interesting at first, as his antics and experiments seemed pretty harmless.
He once tried sidesaddle (sorry, “face-on”) putting:
He cleans his grooves like a 15-handicapper:
He called putting a “differential equation” and described using something called PuttView, which sounds like a real-life version of the Tiger Woods video game putting grid:
And he factors in air density into his pre-shot routine:
Sure, he was a little odd, and he had a tendency to come off as smug, as in the linked putting video above when he basically directly stated that he was thinking at a much higher level than other Tour pros. But he was winning, and winning papers over a lot of cracks in a player’s image. His first PGA tour win came at the 2017 John Deere, and he won three times last year — at Memorial, the Northern Trust, and the Dell Tech Championship.
But even before the latter two wins, the cracks were starting to show:
This is a range rage not often seen on the PGA Tour, or really ever, for that matter. If you were at the local Astroturf range and somebody down the end starting scattering their clubs like handfuls of bird seed, you’d be sure to group text all your golf-loving friends, and might consider leaving the area altogether just to be safe.
After winning a reacharound season event in November (the Shriners), Bryson has not finished outside the top 15 in any of his first five events this season.
However, he finished T56 out of 71 in this week’s WGC-Mexico event. And after all that’s happened in the past few days, that’s pretty unsurprising.
A quick recap: he hit a bad shot from a bunker at Riviera last week, and decided to take out his frustration:
A deed for which he was moderately criticized. People slam clubs all the time, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Sergio’s Dubai meltdown, and the only thing that made this particularly egregious was the flying clod of bunker edge.
That happened Friday the 15th. Tuesday the 19th, the world was blessed with this masterwork of investigative reportage.
How Bryson trains his brain
Every week, Bryson DeChambeau watches a movie. Doesn't matter if he's stuck in a hotel room for an upcoming tournament…
For those who haven’t read it and aren’t inclined to, I’ll summarize. Bryson owns a gold-plated, silver brain-training device (seriously) that monitors and attempts to regulate his neural responses to stressful situations. The whole thing reads like an infomercial for the company that makes the device, whose name escapes me, but the image of Bryson watching PG-13 movies that stop when his brain gets too active and restart only when he’s calmed his brain down (again, seriously) is absolutely priceless.
This feature on our beautiful boy Bryson was a fixture on the PGA Tour’s website this week, and I think I heard there was a segment on the TV coverage about it as well. Which makes it all the more perplexing that BDC acted out again, in direct contrast to the content of the article, and in full view of many a watching camera lens:
This one is even harder to defend than the bunker smack. First, he was handed the club by his caddie before driving it into the turf, meaning he had at least a few seconds of premeditation to plan out his attack on the practice green. And second, it’s the freakin’ practice green! Nothing counts, cameras and fans are everywhere, and he still had time to correct whatever’s wrong before playing the round.
It’s another case of range rage, just days after having a puff piece published about his supposedly elite emotion-management system. Then, in some misguided bit of apology by way of self-deprecation, this happened:
First off, anytime you have to employ Bubba Watson and Ted Scott to rehabilitate your image, you know something’s wrong. And this is where we get into the meat of the “Is Bryson smart?” debate. Because this video definitely adds some weight to the “Nope” side of the scale.
Before digging into the responses, though, can we talk about the content? Of course it’s satirical and tongue-in-cheek, but if I’m Bryson here, I’m busting out all available science terms and going so over-the-top with physics that Bubba and Ted get confused. This would be a great time for the tried-and-true “coefficient of restitution” mentioned during the whole flag in/flag out debate.
Instead, we nuggets like, “All you gotta do is test your arm, see how straight you can get it…Extend it, where you’re contracting both triceps, and then you just create a little dink in the ground and see how deep it goes.”
Content and acting skills aside, however, there were some unhappy campers among the viewers of Bryson’s action and subsequent short film:
So at this point, we’re looking at a 25-year-old kid with upwards of 20 million in the bank, and no real ability to control his emotions in his chosen profession, despite supposedly elite-level training in that area. He literally sat for an interview about his gold-plated brain-regulating device, then immediately sabotaged it with an outburst on either side of its release. That doesn’t scream “smart” to me.
Low level of emotional intelligence — check.
Neither does this:
This is Bryson speaking in Saudi Arabia about how the country is doing “amazing things.” Frankly, that’s a somewhat shocking display of ignorance of the human rights atrocities committed by the Saudi Arabian government. I think all of the above serves as more than enough evidence to support the “Bryson’s not smart” theory. He may (possibly) be intelligent, but he’s definitely not smart.
Also, are we even sure he’s that intelligent?
Far be it from me to question whether or not Bryson is actually calculating physics equations between every golf shot. My two cents on the whole matter is that if Bryson were truly as intelligent as he says he is, he wouldn’t have to broadcast it.
To go one step further, there’s a decent chance that if Bryson were truly as intelligent as he says he is, he would be using his brain for a better purpose— either to help the world in some field like medicine or climate change, or at least to play a sport more immune to variation. Sports(?) like bowling, darts, video games, or even curling seem like they’d be perfect for the kinds of physics-based biomechanical approach that Bryson’s trying to bring to golf, and all are (mostly) immune to wind, rain, differing playing field conditions, bad bounces, and all the vagaries associated with golf.
But then again, those sports don’t get you millions in the bank and on network television every weekend.