By: Robbie Vogel | Twitter
Every year, Drew Magary puts together one of the best pieces of content churned out around the holiday season: the Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. It is an inspired concept, and after a pretty serious health situation in late 2018, it was great to see that Drew was well enough in March to grind out another acid-tongued breakdown of this bastion of American consumerism.
Let’s apply this concept to golf, shall we?
And specifically, to American golfer Bryson DeChambeau, one of the more polarizing figures who has ever played golf on the world stage.
First off, make no mistake, the kid can play. That’s never been the issue. He’s only the fifth player in history to win the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Am in the same year, and he already has five PGA Tour wins (the same number as another opinion-inciting Cobra staffer), to go along with wins on the Web.com Tour and European Tour. He’s long off the tee, can be deadly accurate on approach and his short game is good enough on a regular basis to be considered one of the best young Americans in the world.
When all of that is clicking, he can reach meteoric highs. Yet those highs can be followed without warning by abysmal play, as this run of results from the 2018 Memorial through the BMW Championship suggest: 1 – T25 – T9 – W/D – T51 – 30 – CUT – 1 – 1 – 19.
Whether that volatility comes from Bryson’s bespoke equipment, his mental approach to the game, his emotional temperament, or some other factors entirely is somewhat beside the point. Because apart from being great at golf, Bryson is ELITE at annoying the shit out of golf fans.
It’s hard to know where to start when dissecting all of Bryson’s foibles, so let’s begin with his introduction to the world stage, as THE GOLFING SCIENTIST.
Bryson’s Big Brain
A quick Google search of “The golfing scientist” will turn up a number of puff pieces on the allegedly Mensa-level brain hiding beneath that Hogan cap. Scan through these, and the same few points will pop up time and again: a one-plane swing, single-length irons, physics major, The Golfing Machine, standard deviations and air density and coefficients of restitution. We’ll deal with most of these in an individual manner in a second, but first of all, let’s examine the narrative as a whole.
After finishing your third article on Neil DeGrasse Bryson, you’d be forgiven for imagining him as a futuristic supercomputer in FootJoys, able to instantly calculate a myriad of factors and determine how much force to apply to a dimpled spheroid in order to propel its center of mass along the proper vector towards the target. (See? Anyone can sound smart using jargon).
The reality? Consider this graph:
I poached this from a post on The Refuge, the No Laying Up message board. The person who posted it claims to have a PhD. in polymer science and engineering, and though I have no reason to disbelieve him, it also can’t be verified. Regardless, his points are good:
“I just chuckle with him calculating air densities on the fly. Fluid mechanics is a tremendously complicated topic, and +/-10% is ridiculous oversimplification of the impact on ball flight. A commenter above said that it’s a placebo affect [sic] – I think this nails it. The “science” gives him confidence, which ultimately helps him. I for one simply don’t believe he’s actually solving the equations that he claims to be solving out there.“
Translation: Bry Bry the Science Guy isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Let’s dig in.
As we go on… we remember…
Every article is quick to mention that Bryson majored in physics at Southern Methodist, which is admirable for a college athlete with the chance to go pro. But they fail to report a few things, as they don’t quite fit the narrative. Like the fact that U.S. News ranks the SMU physics program 139th in the country, deadlocked with such luminaries as Michigan Tech, UNLV, and George Mason. And the fact that Bryson never graduated from SMU, instead leaving after his junior season when the golf team was facing sanctions including a postseason ban.
While Bryson has made it clear he intends to finish his degree, he hasn’t yet. Meanwhile, Roberto Castro holds an Industrial Engineering degree from Georgia Tech, the top IE school in the country. Joe Ogilvie graduated from Duke and owns an investment advisory firm. Obviously, neither of these players have been as successful as Bryson, but they also haven’t been trumpeting their intelligence all over the place…
“I had a couple of interesting theories about it, and I described it very, very well”
The quote above comes from Brian Wacker’s piece on DeChambeau in January. The it in question is Bryson’s sixth grade science fair project, in which he attempted to disprove gravity.
In case you skimmed that, I’ll reiterate. 12-year-old Bryson DeChambeau argued that, rather than pulling objects inward, gravity actually pushed them outwards. And he seems to be still proud of his efforts. The guy can’t help but pump his own tires at every opportunity and refuses to take responsibility when things go wrong.
On his face-on putting method, “It’s more bio-mechanically efficient,” he said. “I take it back with a certain amount of energy with a certain acceleration profile that lets it go a certain distance.” He also was quoted as saying that hitting short putts felt like “cheating.” Which must be why he abandoned the method after a few weeks of abysmal putting.
On the USGA’s ruling that said putting method was illegal: “It [was] a long conversation…but the USGA essentially doesn’t like me doing it…they’re not a good organization, and you can quote me on that.” While you won’t find me defending the USGA, you will find me pointing to the rest of that article, where a USGA spokesperson points out that only one of Bryson’s putters was deemed non-conforming and the stroke was not deemed illegal. And also, that Bryson employed the stroke for several events after receiving this ruling before abandoning it of his own volition.
On his use of a drawing compass, which was also deemed illegal: “I’m figuring out the true pin locations…The pin locations are just a little bit off every once in a while, and so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot.” Bud, the pin locations are where the hole is. It’s that little circle on the green with the pole sticking out of it. Putt it there.
On his self-professed limitless potential: “I’m starting to understand why I was so good in the beginning of the year. And that’s kind of a scary thought for me, at least, because it shows what I can do…You can always get better…How much? I would say it depends on what I can do in the restrictions of my biomechanics. So it’s all about error tolerances and being… less sensitive to error. So that when you do feel like you mess up, it’s not going to be that big of a mess-up. I hope that makes sense.” Yeah, dude. It makes sense. It’s called practicing more and playing better so you fuck up less. It’s what every single athlete in the world does instinctively.
On the fact that he’s actually a fast golfer, if you just use that pea brain of yours: “It’s a bit unfair when you’ve got someone that’s behind you, let’s say, and they’re slower, but they’re quicker through their process…I get up there in the middle of the fairway and I have to wait for them to go, and then I have only my 40 seconds, which is what I’m trying to do everything under. People call me slow. I call myself quick with the stuff I do. … A lot of guys out here, they just see it and they hit it.” So you have to calculate air density and wind vector? Sick. Try doing that before it’s your turn to hit. [Editors Note: Boom, Roasted.]
On his gold-plated, electromagnetic brain-training device (really)… actually, I can’t do justice to this one. It’s too good. He has a (GOLD-PLATED!) machine that measures his brain waves while he watches movies and stops the movie if his brain gets too excited. Get right the fuck out of here.
“They don’t understand why it happens. I do.”
As a final example of this skull-crushing bullshit, please read this article from Golf.com’s Joel Beall, which explains the seven things that Bryson allegedly thinks about before every shot. Six of his thoughts are completely normal things that most high-level golfers consider: air density, elevation change, “wind vector” (which is Prof. Gerald Chambeau’s way of saying “wind”), “local slope adjustment” (aka, is the ball on a slope?), roll out number, and shot shape. Three things about this article infuriated me…
1 – That he said shit like “wind vector” and “local slope adjustment” – just say wind and slope. Speak English.
2 – The way he explains his seven factors is so pompously, as if he’s deigning to relate the secrets of the galaxy to the village idiot. Here’s his breakdown of elevation change:
“‘Easy, how much the altitude affects the flight of the golf ball. Think about it: If I go out and play a tournament one week at 1,000 feet of elevation, and then the next week go play in 2,000 feet of elevation. If I hit a 150 shot from last week, and the next week it flies 156 — that’s not a correct adjustment by the way — it something you have to take into account.’”
Thank God he mentioned that it wasn’t a correct adjustment, Heaven knows what I’d do if I went to the golf course thinking my 150 shot would fly 156 because of another 1,000 feet of elevation.
3 – The “something secret” factor that Bryson allegedly has…
“I’m not going over that one. Intuitively the top players in the world know it, but they don’t understand why it happens. I do.”
Is that not the most dipshit stupid thing you’ve ever read in your life? It’s so outrageous, it would function better as a piece of performance art aimed at trolling the media. But we know it can’t be that, because he tried that once, and he completely botched it!
“It’s pretty simple, all you gotta do is test your arm… see how straight you can get it”
This cringefest from three of golf’s worst people is almost too nausea-inducing to sit through. It refers to an incident in which the Fraudulent Physicist (h/t Shotgun Start) dented a practice green in anger. As a form of apology, he chose to appear in the video above. Aside from it being tone-deaf, poorly acted, and aggressively not funny, it also makes the alleged genius seem like a total moron.
If you listen to what he’s saying, it’s classic Bryson. He tries to sound smart by talking about contracting both heads of the bicep and tricep, but then completely fails to follow through and actually make a coherent point. As near as I can figure, he’s saying if you fully extend your arm with a putter in hand and dent the green, you can gauge that dent’s depth to figure out how firm the greens are. It’s completely ridiculous, and I’m aware that it’s all supposed to be a joke, but if you keep touting yourself as a science nerd then you can’t act like a fool and get away with it.
And speaking of acting like a fool…
“Picking up his golf clubs after tossing them down the fairway”
In which everyone’s favorite bastion of emotional and mental stability breaks down. Sure seems like that brain-training device ain’t workin’.
“It’s amazing what Saudi Arabia is doing”
Two more choice nuggets.
He committed to play in the 3M Open in Minnesota next month, and said that 3M’s innovative product line was a deciding factor for him. They make sticky notes.
He also made it known that he would be visiting the 3M headquarters, and explained, ““That’s a big deal for me…I love hearing about and understanding the growing of human potential. I’m excited to see what they’re doing for the world.” What on Earth?
And finally, as if everything else wasn’t enough, he said, “It’s amazing what Saudi Arabia is doing” for the game of golf after playing in a European Tour event there. Never mind the golf, no right-thinking human should ever utter the words “it’s amazing what Saudi Arabia is doing” in any context.
In conclusion, Bryson’s mercurial talent is often overshadowed by a variety of emotional actions and fake science words, and the world of golf would be much better off if he toned literally everything about himself down about 75%.
Thus ends the rant. Thank you for your time.