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Bryson DeChambeau talks, plays over everyone's head, winning Northern Trust

Bryson DeChambeau plays a shot from a bunker

Bryson DeChambeau plays a shot from a bunker on the 10th hole during the final round of the Northern Trust on Sunday in Ridgewood, N.J. Credit: Getty Images / Gregory Shamus

PARAMUS, N.J. — When golfers and other experts talk about the core of young stars on tour, they almost never mention Bryson DeChambeau. That might be partly because he has yet to win a major championship and partly because people often don’t know what the heck he is talking about. In any case, it is safe to say he is in a class by himself.

“The group that’s out there, the young guns, it’s awesome,” DeChambeau said Sunday as he sat next to the Northern Trust tournament trophy that he won by four shots. “I love being able to talk to them and mess around with them and joke with them every once in a while.”

But when it comes right down to it, he said, “I view myself as kind of a one-off in a sense that I’m doing my own thing.”

His thing involves delving deeply into biomechanics, talking about “descending ball speed” and “spatial awareness” and endlessly seeking that one perfect swing. Thus, he spent a good while on the Ridgewood Country Club driving range Saturday evening even after having shot 8-under-par 63 to take a four-stroke lead. “Well, it was not 54, it’s not birdieing every hole,” he said. “So there’s always room for improvement.”

The 24-year-old, three-time tour winner and former college physics major repeatedly said he is still learning, adding that he does not categorize himself in any age group because he is not sure at which stage his golf education stands.

What was clear all weekend was that he had figured out this course and this tournament better than anyone else. The scientist in him could appreciate the systematic way he shot 2-under-par 69 Sunday to finish 18 under and win the first leg of the four-stop PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs. “All in all, it was fantastic, but a different way of winning,” he said, referring to the three-way playoff he needed to win the Memorial in May. “You know, I’ve won different ways each time. I’m learning more and more each time I do it.”

Bigger names in his demographic range had their moments but no one touched DeChambeau, who was four strokes better than runner-up Tony Finau. Brooks Koepka, winner of two recent majors, was flat all weekend and tied for eighth at 11 under, tied with defending FedEx Cup winner Justin Thomas and one ahead of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Jordan Spieth thought he found a key to his balky putting but shot 2 over Sunday to finish 7 under. At the other end of the experience spectrum, Keegan Bradley, riding a resurgence to the final pairing Sunday, fell back with a 7-over 78. Phil Mickelson played fairly well but ended up nine strokes behind. Tiger Woods never was in contention, finishing at 4 under, and making a case — as assistant captain — that DeChambeau really belongs on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“He’s very fiery,” said the 14-time major champion who often plays practice rounds with DeChambeau. “We all know he’s extremely intelligent, but his heart — he gives it everything he has and is always trying to get better.”

Woods added that he actually understands a golfer who apparently likes standing apart. DeChambeau uses irons that are all the same length, directly opposed to longstanding convention, and wears an unusual flat-top cap. He insists that he had to work harder than his California schoolmates growing up in order to maintain a straight-A average. DeChambeau gave a virtual tip of the chapeau to his caddie, Tim Tucker, saying, “There’s not another person who would put up with my crap.”

“That’s been me my whole life,” the champion said. “I’ve had to grind and work it out and figure it out on my own.”

Now, it looks like the rest of the tour has the tough task of trying to figure out what to make of DeChambeau, and how to beat him.

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