An incredible purple patch on the front nine on Saturday, when he played the first eight holes of his third round in five-under-par, helped 100.099/1 chance, Matthew Wolff, move up from tied seventh at halfway to two strokes clear of the field with a round to go.
Wolff, who was matched in-running at a low of 2.427/5, didn't have the lightning fast start to round four that he'd experienced 24 hours earlier and slowly but surely the tide turned in the favour of his nearest challenger, Bryson DeChambeau.
The gap was halved when Wolff bogeyed the third, the pair were tied when DeChambeau birdied the fourth, and the world number nine (now up to five) took the lead when Wolff bogeyed the fifth. The pair went blow-for-blow to the turn, with matching pars at seven and eight, matching bogeys at eight and incredibly, matching eagles at nine. But the writing was soon on the wall after that.
Bryson, generally a pre-tournament 30.029/1 chance, matched at a high of 50.049/1 in-running, was two clear after ten, three clear after 11 and four clear after 14 and when Wolff double-bogeyed the 16th, it was done deal.
DeChambeau's dominance was quite something. Finishing the week on six-under-par, after a three-under-par 67 on Sunday, he was the only player to break par in round four and he was the only player to finish the week under-par.
Saturday evening was really quite depressing. Pre-event 55.054/1 pick, Patrick Reed, who was matched at a low of 3.412/5 in-running, had led the field at halfway and he was still in front at the turn on Saturday but one awful shot on the par three 10th stopped him in his tracks. Having missed the green by a long way, he failed to get up-and-down for par and he just melted away after that - playing the back-nine in 43 strokes. That's eight over the par of 35!
I was tempted to walk away after that but as detailed in the In-Play Blog yesterday, I quite fancied DeChambeau to catch the leader so all was not lost. I had a small bet yesterday morning at 3.55 and I topped up at 3.7511/4 when he inexplicably drifted before the start of play.
Power off the tee is nothing new
DeChambeau's tactics off blasting his drives as far off the tee as possible and taking it from there was widely scoffed at before the off. It couldn't be done apparently, but yet again Bryson's methodology has worked. And we probably shouldn't be in the least bit surprised.
His power is quite extraordinary and his average length off the tee for the week of 325.6 yards is the highest ever measured by a US Open champion. Purists will bemoan the fact that he only hit 22 fairways all week long and that you shouldn't be able to win a US Open when off line that often but it really isn't anything new.
Following DeChambeau's comprehensive performance, only four winners in the last 17 years have ranked higher for accuracy off the tee than they have for length and 13 of the last 17 have ranked inside the top-ten for DD, compared to just four inside the top-ten for DA.
I though Charlie Ford's tweet below summed it up nicely last night.
A powerful long game has been essential for a long time at this major and it was even more so this time around given the field hit the fairway less than 39.6% of the time at Winged Foot. According to Justin Ray, that's the lowest percentage for any US Open since data started being tracked more than 30 years ago and in the 30 years since that stat has been recorded, there's never been a PGA Tour event where a course yielded a fairways-hit percentage that low over 72 holes.
In short, everyone missed lots of fairways - as they always do at US Opens - so those that don't hit it very far off the tee are at a significant disadvantage.
It's all very well bleating on about how the game used to be played but there's an awful lot of rose-tinted nonsense spouted. As Charlie says, length has always been key.
There's also a lot of misconceptions about how far from off the pace you can come to win a US Open and once again, the winner was up in the van throughout. DeChambeau sat tied for 14th after round one and only four off the lead but he moved up nicely on Friday morning. He sat second after rounds two and three, trailing by one and two strokes.
Throughout the tournament, you'll hear commentators repeatedly say that if so-and-so can do this or that, pick up three or four shots here or there, then they'll be in with a great chance. So-and-so's only five, six, or seven back and not out of it etc but in reality, they're nearly always very wrong and making up ground at a US Open is nigh on impossible. Wolff's move on the front nine on Saturday was highly irregular and, unsurprisingly, the shots gained all went back with interest over the remainder of the weekend. A slow and steady grind is the way to get it done.
Friday was the key day for trading again, with the tournament really taking shape as the second round drew to a close. DeChambeau's price moved in from a start of 27.026/1 on Friday morning, to a low on the day of 3.814/5, after he'd eagled the ninth to end his round, and after the early afternoon starters struggled in the windy conditions. He drifted back out as the wind dropped and the afternoon starters managed to get a foothold and he was a 5.95/1 chance on Saturday morning but it wasn't hard to trade him back and fore.
The winner was the sixth American to win the US open in-a-row and he also reaffirmed a few major title trends that are well worth considering when we get to Augusta in November for the US Masters.
Following DeChambeau's success - his first in a major - 14 of the last 19 (74%) major championships have gone to a first-timer and the last 34 majors (since Keegan Bradley won the US PGA Championship way back in 2011) have been won by someone inside the world's top-50.
Those trends would have continued if the runner-up, Wolff, had won and it's worth just touching on his performance. At 21 years, five months and six days of age, Wolff was the youngest runner-up in the US Open since Jack Nicklaus in 1960 (age 20). His swing looks bizarre but don't let that fool you, he's clearly straight out of the top draw and was just unlucky to bump into a phenom.
Bryson may not be unpopular but his victory was the most impressive in a major for many a year. He was not only six strokes better than anyone else throughout the week, he shot three strokes better than anyone else on Sunday. And that was playing in the final two-ball, coping with all the pressure that-that brings.
We're back down to earth this week but we do have two live events to enjoy - the Irish Open on the European tour and the Corales Puntacana R&C Championship on the PGA Tour. I'll be back either later today or more likely tomorrow with the previews.
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