Tulsa, Oklahoma. – After a nine-hole practice run on Wednesday in the steamy South Hills, Bryson Dechambeau and his team gathered inside the club for an emergency meeting.
Just moments ago, his swing coach, Chris Cuomo, was asked how his star student turned out for his first act since hand surgery. “His swing looks really good,” Cuomo said, before adding, ominously, “but I don’t know how he feels.”
Inside the club, they weighed DeChambeau’s next move.
Do you feel 100%? he said no.
Do you think you can win? he said no.
Then the answer was clear: he needed to withdraw from the PGA Championship.
PGA Championship full field tee times
DeChambeau alerted tournament officials at around 5pm local time of his decision. First substitute Denny McCarthy was added to the field. “I had a feeling he was going to quit,” McCarthy said. “I was ready either way.” He played nine holes in each of the past two days in preparation.
“I just realized it wouldn’t be the right decision for me to play this week – it would be an extended time,” Dechambeau said in the players’ parking lot. Doctors initially told him, after the operation on April 14, that he would miss about eight weeks after removing a broken bone in his left hand, a problem that had caused him discomfort all season.
“I want to give someone else a chance who’s fully prepared and ready to get out here,” he said. “Feeling tired and tired, four days is such a stretch for me right now.”
And so ends the saga that began unexpectedly late last week when I was at home in Dallas. The dandruff fell off DeShampeau’s surgically repaired hand last Thursday, finally allowing him to grab one of the batons. After a day, he headed to the range and hit about 40 balls, increased his speed each time, and feeling great, he even hit a 192 mph ball speed. The next day, with no persistent pain, he trained for an hour and a half – not quite the usual marathon sessions, but still satisfying. That’s when he decided to fly to Tulsa and try to prepare on site for this year’s second major.
After limited work in the short games on Monday, he’s scored nine holes in each of the past two days. DeChambeau, who played nine for Southern Hills on Wednesday, said there was a four-hole stretch in which he felt his hand slowly lose strength and stamina. Since the Hammett bone was shaved off, it said that it couldn’t take any additional damage – but it could strain the surrounding tendons that weren’t strong enough to absorb the impact of his powerful blows.
“When I try to use more force, it starts to slow down and my body doesn’t respond well to it,” he said. “I’m just starting to feel exhausted. It’s not worth it yet. … It was a big push, a big demand of myself, but I want to go back 100%, not 70% and let it last for a while.”
Currently ranked 219th in the FedExCup standings, DeChambeau said he will reassess his health over the next few days and try to play again next week at Colonial, his hometown event. A more realistic target is the memorial, June 2-5, which his doctors initially targeted.
“My season is just starting, I hope it is,” he said.
The PGA’s withdrawal was another setback in the most frustrating period of DeChambeau’s career. Late last fall, before a charity match with Brooks Koepka, DeChambeau discovered a stress fracture. This problem continued for the next few months, then finally closed after slipping and falling while playing ping-pong with Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Nieman at the Saudi International in early February. In an effort to equip himself with his left hand, DeChambeau exacerbated a previous injury and also partially ruptured a cleft in his left hip, forcing him to miss three scheduled matches, including his defense of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players titles.
At the time, doctors told DeChambeau there was a 95% chance he would need surgery on his hand. But he postponed the procedure in the hope that he would improve on his own and be able to play the Masters. In fact, against his doctor’s advice, he returned in late March, but his game was a mess and his body wasn’t responding. After being knocked out early from the bout and suffering a lost cut at the Valero Texas Open, he exploded inside with rounds 76-80 at Augusta National and scheduled his surgery a few days later.
“From an emotional point of view, it was difficult,” he said. “I’ve had some tough times. The past seven months have been tough for me, not being able to play golf the way I wanted to. It pushes me every day – that’s why I’m here. I really want to go back and try to play. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. The goal is to prove to myself that I can come back from injury and play at the highest level possible. The frustration is definitely there, but it is leading me in a positive direction.”
In an interview that aired on Tuesday, when he was still hoping to play in the PGA, DeChambeau seemed to reflect while discussing his time away which “wasn’t fun”. It’s been a turbulent plus year, both on and off the track – from “Brooksy!” Saudi League Injury Drama – and he seemed really excited for the next phase of his career.
“I think everyone deserves a second chance,” he said.
Asked a day later what he meant, Deschamps said: “Second chances are for me, whether it’s with the media or people who believe a certain thing about me – in life, we all need second chances at some point, no matter who they are.”
“It was definitely a personal reset on my end. A lot of things have happened in my life that I have had to mature and grow up. We all have problems, and everyone should realize that we are all just humans at the end of the day.”