PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — What Bryson DeChambeau is in pursuit of doesn’t exist.
There’s no such thing as perfection in golf.
Or in life, for that matter.
And that must drive DeChambeau mad, because he does everything in his power to control everything around him and sometimes gives off the vibe that he thinks he’s solved the formula.
When DeChambeau does what he did a week ago, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and doing it with the added style points that came with driving it over the lake on the par-5 sixth hole, it leaves you — and particularly him — believing that he’s never going to lose another golf tournament.
Then things happen like Sunday, when he simply couldn’t get out of second or third gear and win the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.
When it doesn’t happen for DeChambeau, when the numbers don’t add up in the equation he’s been working so diligently to solve, it leaves him perplexed.
A fitting end to DeChambeau’s day on Sunday came on the second-to-last of his shots for the week, on the 72nd hole. His 19-foot birdie putt spun 360 degrees around the cup and spit itself out 3 feet away, leaving him in a tie for third place instead of second — behind winner Justin Thomas.
DeChambeau looked at his caddie, Tim Tucker, and had a look of utter exasperation.
“Golf,’’ DeChambeau said afterward, as if throwing his hands up in bewilderment. “It just seemed like something wasn’t going my way for some reason. Just I could feel it. It was weird. Just numerous putts that I hit, it was like, ‘OK, that’s a really good putt, and it didn’t go in.’
“I was hitting it pretty good for the most part,’’ he continued. “I striped a 5-iron on 8, hit two great shots on 9 into a really bad spot. On 10, hit a great shot in there. It spun too hard for some reason. On 11, just sprayed my drive right. Even after that on 14, I should have hit a hard drive over the right-side rough, and I just didn’t go after it for some reason, which is kind of dumb on my part.
“I missed a 15-footer on 15. On 17, hit a great shot [and it] didn’t go down the hill like I wanted to. On 18, I played flawless and lipped out a putt. There were numerous putts in the beginning that just didn’t go my way. That’s golf.’’
DeChambeau’s fortunes changed on the fourth hole, where he drilled a low line-drive, worm-burner hybrid tee shot into the muck, had to take a penalty drop and took double bogey.
“Never done that,’’ DeChambeau said. “Not in competition.’’
DeChambeau said he was “trying to hit more of a low bullet and just kind of caught the heel, a little high on the thing.’’
“It wasn’t really a top, it was more like a thin ball that just had no spin on it and just knuckled,’’ he said. “Just one of those things I tried to squeeze and hit it too hard, got on top of it and hit it thin. Caught the grass below it and just never got any height.
“If there was a top there, it would have been down on the ground. But it’s one of those things that just didn’t have it all today. I was proud of the way I fought, proud of the way I persevered, and there’s still more tournaments to be had.’’
DeChambeau said he “cracked’’ his 4-iron on the next shot and couldn’t use it the rest of the round.
Asked what the difference was between last Sunday and this Sunday, DeChambeau lamented, “It’s just the putts didn’t go in.’’
He said the lesson learned from this week is that “I can play on golf courses that don’t really suit me,’’ referring to the tight, strategic Stadium Course that takes the driver out of the hands of some of the long hitters like DeChambeau.
“It’s just a little bit of a learning block, and I’m going to go back and work really hard on my golf swing and figure out how to be less sensitive,’’ he said. “I was more sensitive last week and pulled out the victory. I got a little lucky. Just putts didn’t fall today. I hit a lot of great putts that didn’t go in. That’s the unfortunate part about golf sometimes.’’
Maybe at some point, DeChambeau, for all of his physical prowess and hard work that rivals that of anyone in the game, will figure out that he’ll never really be able to figure golf out.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Not in golf. Not in life.