“Here's to the crazy ones.”
“The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
This is the script that launched Apple’s now-legendary ‘Think Different’ campaign in 1997. It could just as easily have been written for Bryson DeChambeau.
The 26-year-old Californian is perhaps the most maverick and individualistic golfer in living memory.
Why wear a baseball cap when you can wear a flat cap? Why putt conventionally when you can side-saddle? Why used variable-length irons when you can use a single-length set?
He’s innovative, eccentric, arrogant.
Who else turns up for their Ryder Cup wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a slogan as bombastic as ‘BEAT EUROPE’?
Who else spritzes their range balls with water to simulate early-morning, dewy course conditions?
Who else uses a protractor to determine ‘true pin positions’, or talks about producing ‘proper brain frequencies to get into parasympathetic states’, or describes golf as ‘Newtonian’?
Bryson DeChambeau is different – and a lot of people don’t like it.
You don’t have to dive deep into the social media cesspit to find somebody deriding the five-time PGA Tour winner. More often than not, they are incapable of articulating their answers beyond a few vulgar obscenities. For whatever reason, they have decided he’s not somebody they like and hell mend him.
But what, exactly, is the fault? DeChambeau daring to try something different, or being crudely ridiculed from afar for his audacity? What is it about the human condition that makes us so scornful of free-thinking non-conformists? Why are we so resentful of their success? Envy? Fear? Our belligerent grip to familiarity's comfort blanket? Whatever it is, it’s not DeChambeau’s problem.
None of which is to say that the American is not without his faults. His reputation as one of the game’s slowest players is well-earned, whilst his carefully crafted pseudo-intellectual persona is easily challenged. Not only is far from the first professional golfer to go to university, there is the not-altogether-insignificant detail of him never actually graduating.
He is apparently as easy to poke fun of as he is difficult to like. But the time has come to invest less time in the former and apply more energy to the latter.
Whatever anybody might think about what he does and the way he does it, it’s working.
DeChambeau has finished inside the top-10 in each of his last six tournaments. In the three events since lockdown ended, he has finished T3, T8 and T6, with a stroke average of 66.5. He was a combined 46-under-par in those tournaments and is second only to Cameron Champ in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Driving Distance on the PGA Tour this season.
In round two of the Travelers Championship, he hit the third longest drive recorded so far in the 2019/20 PGA Tour season, hitting his tee shot at the tenth 428 yards. People laughed at his plan to improve his game by ‘getting massive’, at the sight of him swinging out of his shoes on the range.
But who’s laughing now?
He has been on tour less than four years and has already compiled a career that many of his longer-in-the-tooth peers would happily and immediately trade for. Fitness permitting, he’ll achieve much, much more before his career is through. He’s programmed a trajectory for the sport’s Hall of Fame and is already well on the way.
That deserves respect, not contempt. Who the hell cares if he’s 'quirky'? Why is that such a crime and so worthy of stupefyingly intense enmity?
It’s time to be better. To try empathy. To think different.
Here’s to them. The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
They might just change the world.