…As DeChambeau muscles his way to U.S. Open Golf victor***
Novak Djokovic was made to work hard by Casper Ruud in blustery conditions before he got past the unseeded Norwegian 7-5 6-3 on Sunday to reach the Italian Open final.
The Serbian had to save two set-points in the first set before finding his groove to reach his 10th title clash in Rome and remain on course to win his 36th ATP Masters 1000 crown.
The win helped the world number one to overtake Rafa Nadal on the all-time list.
Defending champion Nadal had crashed out of the tournament in the quarter-finals on Saturday after a straight-sets defeat by Diego Schwartzman.
“It was a tough two-setter today (Sunday). It was over two hours for two sets,” said Djokovic, who equaled Nadal’s tally of Masters 1000 titles by winning the Western & Southern Open last month.
“I definitely had to work hard for most of the points and it was really anybody’s game in the first set.
“It was probably the windiest day since we arrived in Rome and it was quite tough to handle that.
“But the second set was much better. I got used to it and started swinging through the ball better.”
Argentine Schwartzman took on Canadian young gun Denis Shapovalov in the second semi-final later on Sunday, with the winner meeting Djokovic on Monday.
Djokovic started sluggishly and trailed 4-5 in the opening set, but he broke back and won the final three games to take the early advantage in the contest.
The Serb, who fired 12 aces in the match, served with much better accuracy in the second set and broke to go ahead 3-2 before closing out in style.
In another development, a bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau bashed his way to a six-shot U.S. Open victory on Sunday, silencing any lingering questions as to whether his brawny game could translate to the major stage.
World number nine DeChambeau, who began the day two shots back of U.S. Open debutant Matthew Wolff, clinched his first major title with a mix of jaw-dropping drives and clutch putts.
He shot a virtually flawless three-under-par 67 to reach six under for the tournament at Winged Foot.
“On nine is when I first thought, ‘OK, this could be reality’,” DeChambeau, speaking during the trophy presentation, said of his mindset after an eagle at the par-five ninth.
“I made that eagle, long eagle putt and I shocked myself by making it, too, and I thought to myself, ‘I could do it’. And then immediately after, I said, ‘nope, you’ve got to focus on each and every hole’.”
Wolff (75), appearing in only his second major, was one shot back of DeChambeau at the turn but fell apart over a back nine that included two bogeys and a double-bogey.
A fearless DeChambeau, whose final round included the eagle, two birdies and a bogey, attacked at every chance.
For his efforts was the only player to break par in the final round as he cruised to a maiden major at his 16th attempt.
The 27-year-old had re-emerged from the PGA Tour’s three-month COVID-19 suspension in mid-June packing serious muscle and hitting a startling distance off the tee.
He attacked Winged Foot all week like few other golfers can.
So confident in his approach, DeChambeau unleashed his driver on practically every par-four and par-five hole as he figured the birdie chances would outweigh the risk that Winged Foot’s nasty rough creates.
DeChambeau grabbed the solo lead after five holes, hit a perfectly-paced 40-foot eagle putt at the ninth to maintain a one-shot cushion.
It was a tournament that came down to a two-horse race between him and Wolff as they made the turn.
The 21-year-old Wolff was bidding to become the first player to win the U.S. Open on his tournament debut since Francis Ouimet in 1913.
But he bogeyed the 10th and 14th holes, before a double-bogey at 16.
“I battled hard. Things just didn’t go my way,” said Wolff. “But first U.S. Open, second-place is something to be proud of and hold your head up high for.”
Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (73) birdied the last to finish alone in third place, a distant eight shots back of DeChambeau.
He was one shot clear of Harris English (73), who made a double-bogey at the first where he lost his tee shot.
Xander Schauffele (74) looked ready to make a back-nine charge after making the turn fresh off back-to-back birdies.
But the world number seven made five consecutive bogeys from the 13th and finished in fifth place.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (75), who finished in a share of eighth-place, was almost left in a state of disbelief at DeChambeau’s win.
This was given his inaccuracy off the tee at a tournament renowned for its thick rough.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does,” said McIlroy.
“Look, he’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know.
“But it’s just – it’s not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played. It’s kind of hard to really wrap my head around it.