Mike Schy knows a thing or two about Bryson DeChambeau.
The coach has worked with the US Open champ since he was a wiry 12-year-old. He admits that he’s partly to blame for the way Bryson is today and says there isn’t a path he wouldn’t follow his young apprentice down.
Here, Schy gives bunkered the inside scoop on what DeChambeau is like away from the cameras, his desire to succeed, and what he really thinks of all the naysayers…
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You’ve known and coached Bryson since he was 12. When did you know he would make it as a pro?
Well, you never know. You see certain things in kids and you think they have good ability, drive and passion. He had those and all the things that you look for when you are a coach trying to peek into the future. You have to look at the player’s ability to work hard by themselves, without a lot of encouragement and pushing.
Did Bryson work hard even back then?
Bryson would be at my tent, where I used to coach, at 7am on a Saturday and he would leave at 5pm. There would be times when school would finish at half-two and he would be at my place by three. My wife would call me and ask where I was some nights, two hours after dark, and my usual response would be telling her I was at the golf course with Bryson. Even from such a young age, he had that drive and passion to succeed. A lot of people would say his anger would get the best of him but, to me, it was pure passion. You just can’t train that in somebody. The love for the game has to be there. If you don’t love the game, it doesn’t matter how dedicated you are. Bryson has both. He loves golf and has always dedicated his life to it.
You’ve been on this ride with Bryson since the beginning. What’s it like seeing him evolve as a golfer?
It’s not easy and you give up so much family time to work with a player. The reason that I get along so well with Bryson is that both of us go down roads that are not travelled by many. For example, the golf swing or the grips. Then the failures on top of that. There have been way more failures than successes and that process is hard. Who’s the person that he’s going to respond to when he has a bad day or moment. Well, guess what? That was me. It still is. I had to give him permission to try to make it not personal but when you’ve got to unload, I’m going to be that person. When he got on tour, let me tell you, the first few years were not easy. I was the first one that he would unload to. We have had nine caddies in total through his career, a lot of which came early on. They couldn’t handle it or Bryson, which was why I kept pushing for Tim [Tucker] because I knew he could handle it.
How has your relationship with him developed over the years?
He’s like family to me. My phone is always available, and he will call at weird hours and I still usually pick up. There’s an honesty there. I’m not scared to tell him what I think and that’s the same for him. As you see, we could end up out on the range for six hours after he has played on the Saturday of a tournament. There have been a few times where we have almost come to blows but that’s just the way it is, and it shows that he wants it so badly.
What’s he like away from the course and cameras?
He’s pretty much just the same guy. He loves his videos games and he’s got a decent inner circle of friends. Honestly, he thinks about golf more than anybody on the planet, I’ll guarantee you that. That probably puts him more on the alone scale, but that’s kind of like Hogan, Nicklaus and Tiger at times. There are guys on tour, not that they don’t want to win and not be No.1, but for the most part they are just making a living. For Bryson, that’s not in his thoughts at all. Everything he does, is because he is doing it through love and being the best. If you put any advantage in front of him, he is going to take it.
A lot has been said about Bryson over the past few years. Some good, some not so good. Does he listen to what people say?
Like everybody, it hurts him when people don’t like him but you just have to deal with that in life. He doesn’t care what people think of his approach to the game. It’s his choice to do these things and he will live with it. If you changed that about him then you would be changing what makes him Bryson.
Have recent successes made the early failures worth it?
Yeah, 100%. I couldn’t make it to the US Open because of COVID-19 restrictions, so he called me on the Sunday night. I remember saying to him that I was delighted for him but also that it was something which I felt was inevitable and expected him to achieve. He laughed and told me that he felt the same way. When we finally celebrated together, with the trophy there, I guess that’s when it hits you and you realise the hard work and sacrifices are all worth it. When you have the US Amateur trophy and the US Open trophy together, side by side, that was so surreal to me. That was a very cool moment to be able to hold those trophies with him.
What’s it like coaching somebody who takes a very scientific approach to the game?
That’s me as well. I’m all about the numbers. Bryson is one of the most creative individuals I’ve ever met. He could definitely be an artist if he wanted to be. He’s done artwork and stuff that’s pretty cool. As for his creativity, it’s second-to-none. He’s amazing when you give him the opportunity to create something. Our view is that, if you are reliant on feel and thinking that it is a 130-yard shot, for him when he goes through his process, the more numbers you give him, the more comfortable he becomes. The math for him, working out elevation and atmospheric pressure, is where he is comfortable. On the other hand, you have someone like Dustin Johnson who takes a much greater ‘feel’ approach. For Bryson, he is just more comfortable having the information there, so why would he avoid it?
Were you one of the first people he had a conversation with about the weight changes he wanted to make?
We have always been fans of length. We were talking about adding length as far back as his US Amateur win. What you have to know is that Bryson has always had what we call his ‘crank ball’. So, he could go from about 116 clubhead speed to about 123 or 124 when he tried. That’s a lot of extra distance. The problem was, when he tried to do it on tour, he just didn’t have the stability, as he only weighed about 160 pounds. He couldn’t maintain balance or stability when he moved to his crank ball. For him, stability is everything. So, the added weight and workout regime was brought in so that he could use that crank ball all the time. I’ve always said to him that, as long as he is healthy, I’m game with whatever path he goes down.
What is he saying about his current gains right now?
He’s excited. He thinks he can probably maintain this physique for a while. He’s getting the results with it now. There’s some history there with diabetes and some other things that are in his family make-up, so it’s very, very important that it gets monitored. It’s just another one of his discoveries where he goes down the rabbit hole and he’s not going to come back up until he is completely fulfilled.
A lot has been made about his distance, but DeChambeau ranked tenth in Strokes Gained: Putting on the PGA Tour in 2020. How much has he worked on that side of his game? I would say he’s now one of the best putters in the world. I guess the statistics show that. When you look at when he first came out on tour, he was a decent putter but he struggled a little bit on different greens and all the different types of surfaces. His struggles resulted in us going to the face-on putting project. The USGA did not want him to putt that way. The putter was perfectly legal but they kept making it non-conforming for four weeks straight. So, long story short, it got to the point that, mentally, it was a drain on him. He putted very well with it, but it was hard, as everywhere you looked, people were criticising it and saying you shouldn’t do this and that the putter was not legal. It was a lot of stress.
As a result, we went back to his old putter and that didn’t work. One week, when he missed the cut, his Strokes Gained was like -4. It was unbelievable how bad it was. He asked me what to do. We met the SIK guys in November 2019. I really liked their face technology. I convinced him to drive to Orlando and he spent three days with the SIK guys and that’s when they came up with the arm-lock putter. He was so excited about it. Why? Because it was his. In his brain, he built this putter with the SIK guys and he knows it’s good. Then the work went into effect. He had the putter he wanted, the structure in his stroke he wanted and then he just had to put in the work to achieve his target of being the best putter in the world. It took two-and-a-half to three years to see improvements. Last year, he was 30th in putting which is a huge improvement. Now, he’s top-10 in Strokes Gained: Putting. That’s enormous. A lot of people don’t give him enough credit for that.
How do you view Bryson’s place in the world of golf?
As a pioneer. Before he turned pro, he asked me where I thought his career was all going to lead. I said that, for him, there would always be a problem. You could win six or seven tour events, maybe even win a major or be No.1 in the world, but people are still going to look at what you do as an anomaly. They’re going to look at your swing, the clubs, the grips and that stupid hat that you wear, and notice that you’re a little different because of how you approach the game. People are going to look at those things and not like it. I warned him there will be naysayers. It shouldn’t be that way because, if it was Tiger, the whole world of golf would change in a second. It’s just not going to be that way for Bryson. There are too many elements that are so out of the norm that it’s going to take a long time for people to get used to it. Lo and behold, look at where we are. He recently asked me why there wasn’t a mile-long queue of people wanting to be coached by me. I told him that it is because they still think we are crazy.
Do you feel like you need to guide him in his practise?
I wish that was the case. If he doesn’t want to do something, he’s not going to do it. As long as he is healthy, I back him. The reality is that, if he’s discovered something, he’s going to go and put in 110% until it runs its course. You have to be there to talk about it because that’s what he likes to do. He always says it’s my fault he is the way he is, which is hugely self-reliant. That was always our goal. We talked about it all the time; the need to be self-reliant in a selfish game. You have to be that way because you have to protect what you do. There will be lots of people and things out there that will try to side-track you, so you have to be self-confident.
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This interview first appeared in issue 184 of bunkered (April 2021). To subscribe, click here. International subscriptions also available.