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Bryson DeChambeau wins another US Open with a clutch finish to deny Rory McIlroy

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Bryson DeChambeau climbed back into the most famous bunker at Pinehurst No. 2, this time with the U.S. Open trophy instead of his 55-degree sand wedge, filling the silver prize with grains of sand to commemorate the best shot of his life.

Rory McIlroy wanted to bury his head in the sand.

DeChambeau won his second U.S. Open title on Sunday by getting up-and-down from 55 yards in a bunker — one of the toughest shots in golf — to deliver another unforgettable finish at Pinehurst and a celebration just as raucous as when his hero, Payne Stewart, won with a big par putt in 1999.

“That’s Payne right there, baby!” DeChambeau screamed as he walked off the 18th green.

This was nothing like DeChambeau winning at Winged Foot in 2020, when there were no fans and no drama. This was high suspense that ultimately came down to a trio of short putts.

McIlroy, who for so much of the final round looked certain to end 10 years without a major, had a one-shot lead until missing a 30-inch par putt on the 16th hole. Tied for the lead on the 18th, with DeChambeau behind him in the final group, McIlroy missed a par attempt from just inside 4 feet.

He was in the scoring room watching, hoping, for a two-hole playoff when DeChambeau got into trouble off the tee as he had done all day. But then DeChambeau delivered the magic moment with his bunker shot to 4 feet and made the par putt for a 1-over 71.

“That bunker shot was the shot of my life,” DeChambeau said.

Moments later, McIlroy was in his car, the wheels spinning on the gravel to get out of Pinehurst without comment. There wasn't much to say. This one will sting.

“As much as it is heartbreaking for some people, it was heartbreak for me at the PGA,” said DeChambeau, who a month ago made a dramatic birdie on the 18th hole at Valhalla, only for Xander Schauffele to match him with a birdie to win the PGA Championship.

“I really wanted this one,” DeChambeau said. “When I turned the corner and saw I was a couple back, I said, ‘Nope, I’m not going to let that happen.’ I have to focus on figuring out how to make this happen.”

True to his form as one of golf's great entertainers, he put on quite the show.

The par putt wasn't as long or as suspenseful as Stewart's in 1999. The celebration was every bit of that. DeChambeau repeatedly pumped those strong arms as he screamed to the blue sky, turning in every direction to a gallery that cheered him on all week.

As much as this U.S. Open will be remembered for DeChambeau's marvelous bunker shot, McIlroy played a big part. He had not missed a putt under 4 feet for 69 holes on the slick, domed Donald Ross greens. And then with the U.S. Open on the line, he missed two over the final three holes for a 69.

McIlroy had the look of a winner. He ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn. He was a model of cool, the opposite of DeChambeau's exuberance. He walked confidently to the 14th tee with a two-shot lead as the chants grew louder.

“Ror-EE! Ror-EE!”

DeChambeau could hear them, and he pounded a 3-wood on the reachable par-4 13th — the tees were moved forward to 316 yards — to the middle of the green for a birdie to stay close.

McIlroy took bogey from behind the 15th green, but he stayed one ahead when DeChambeau, playing in the group behind him, had his first three-putt of the week on the 15th when he missed from 4 feet.

And that's where this U.S. Open took a devastating turn for McIlroy.

He missed a 30-inch par putt on the 16th hole to fall back into a tie. On the 18th hole, McIlroy's tee shot landed behind a wiregrass bush. He blasted out short of the green and pitched beautifully to 4 feet. And he missed again.

DeChambeau kept fans on the edge to the end. He pulled his drive to the left into an awful lie, with a tree in his back swing and a root in front of the golf ball. The best he could manage was to punch it toward the green, and it rolled into a front right bunker.

“One of the worst places I could have been,” DeChambeau said. But he said his caddie, Greg Bodine, kept it simple.

“G-Bo just said: ‘Bryson, just get it up-and-down. That’s all you’ve got to do. You’ve done this plenty of times before. I’ve seen some crazy shots from you from 50 yards out of a bunker,’” DeChambeau said.

During the trophy ceremony, the shot was replayed on a video screen.

“I still can't believe that up-and-down,” DeChambeau said.

Since he won the U.S. Open at Congressional in 2011, McIlroy has seven top 10s in this championship without a victory — it's been more than 100 years since anyone did that well without going home with the trophy.

DeChambeau becomes the second LIV Golf player to win a major, following Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship last year.

An image of Stewart's famous pose was on the pin flag at the 18th, and DeChambeau put on a Stewart-inspired flat cap during the trophy presentation, later replacing it with his “Crushers” cap from LIV.

He finished at 6-under 274.

Patrick Cantlay lingered around this duel all afternoon, unable to get the putts to fall at the right time until he missed a 7-foot par putt on the 16th hole that ended his chances. He closed with a 70 and tied for third with Tony Finau, who matched a Sunday best with 67 without ever having a serious chance of winning.

This is not the same DeChambeau that had become such a polarizing figure — a target of heckling for slow play and his spat with Brooks Koepka. In the sandhills of North Carolina, he had thousands on his side. He signed autographs during his round, he engaged with fans and he delivered one hell of a show.

And when it was over, he looked at the double-decker grandstands around the 18th and thousands circling the 18th green and invited them to his party.

“I want all of you guys somehow,” he said, pointing at them in every direction, “I want you guys to touch this trophy because I want you to experience what this feels like for me. You were a part of this journey this week, and I want you to be a part of it for the after-party.”

DeChambeau wasn't flawless. He hit only five fairways, the fewest in the final round by a U.S. Open champion since Angel Cabrera at Oakmont in 2007. He couldn't escape the trouble on the 12th, leading to a bogey that dropped him two shots behind. He had his first three-putt of the week at the worst time, on the 15th to briefly fall behind.

But he showed the mettle of a two-time U.S. Open champion at the end.

“What's most impressive about Bryson is not that he hits the ball far. Everybody knows it,” said Matthieu Pavon, who played with DeChambeau and shot 71 to finish fifth. “I was amazed by the quality of the short game on 18. It's a master class.”

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