Bryson Brought Back the Noise with One Swing
Off in the distance, there was no mistaking who was standing tall as the central figure in a large section of Bay Hill Club & Lodge during Saturday’s third round of the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
There was no big top above the kingpin but there certainly was a circus-like atmosphere stretching from the tee box all the way to the green of the dog-leg, 531-yard, par-5 6th hole hugged by a huge lake on the left.
Bryson DeChambeau had everyone’s attention and he was playing to the crowd on the tee. He was huffing and puffing and flexing as he readied himself to satisfy the thirst of the fans yearning to see something special. Limited as the galleries were back then – only 5,000 fans were permitted each day to Arnie’s Place that week – the COVID-19-induced silence was being shattered.
It was the first time since the global pandemic beginning in March 2020 that noise moved one and all on a golf course. Not sonic boom jarring. Not the loudest clamor one has ever heard on a golf course. But it sure did sound splendid to all on hand, a welcomed ear-splitter after nearly a year of stillness outside the gallery ropes at PGA Tour events.
What once was loud was loud again.
“We walked off the fifth green and it felt like a rock concert,” playing partner Lanto Griffin said. “There were 500, 1,000 people behind the tee chanting “BRY-SON, BRY-SON, BRY-SON.”
Before the tournament, the bulked-up Mad Scientist said he was going to try to drive the green at the par 5 by going straight over the lake. If the conditions were right – and on this Saturday, the wind was at his large back – he would need to take a line directly over the H2O and carry the ball some 335 yards.
Standing on a hill behind the sixth green, everyone could see DeChambeau starting to crank up the crowd and himself. Later he would say he was aiming at the greenside bunker. And then he uncorked, the ball exploding off the face of his 5-degree driver at a speed of 194 mph. Turned out the ball was heading my way, flying 346 yards, and coming to rest 375 yards from the tee.
370 yards. 💪😲
The longest drive on the 6th hole since 2003.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/zkL2jlU8S3
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 6, 2021
Back on the tee, a smiling DeChambeau went all Rocky twice as he thrust his arms to the sky. He was left with 50 yards to the front of the green and he would go on to make a tap-in birdie.
“As soon as he made contact, everybody knew,” Griffin said. “Everybody went crazy. Walking off the tee, I asked him, ‘There was never a doubt there, was there?’ And he said, ‘Man, I’m glad that’s over with.’ My caddie and I had chills. It didn’t feel like a golf tournament. It felt like a heavyweight prizefight and it was pretty cool to be right there inside the ring watching it.”
Pretty cool watching it from outside the ring, too. The fans went bonkers up by the green. Jordan Spieth, who was about to hit on the seventh tee, went out of his way to see where the ball ended up.
“I felt like a kid again, for sure,” DeChambeau said afterward. “It was exciting. Especially when you pull it off. It was almost like winning a tournament. It’s kind of the feeling I had, it was like, ‘Oh, I did it.’ I got the same chills and feeling when I saw it clear and there was no splash, it was like, ‘Yes. I gave the fans what they wanted.’ It was great.”
Mind you, DeChambeau did so while in contention, risking a large number if he didn’t pull it off. But he did, and then donned the red cardigan the victor receives the next day after winning the tournament. And it should be noted that he wrapped up his one-shot victory with an 8-foot putt on the 72nd hole.
The man can drive for show, we all know that. And he can putt for dough.
Weekly, roars would return to the Tour. Think Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship, Jon Rahm at the U.S. Open, Collin Morikawa at the Open Championship and the U.S. Ryder Cup team blowing off the proverbial roof at Whistling Straits.
DeChambeau made plenty of noise there, too. But that moment on that Saturday in Orlando, when the country was moving slowly toward some type of normalcy, the noise that returned to the PGA Tour was so welcomed.
On that day, at that moment, DeChambeau was a special kind of show in a COVID-19 world in need of one.
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