DeChambeau trying to lead single-length revolution

By Rex HoggardApril 20, 2016, 5:01 pm

Whether you think Bryson DeChambeau is a mad scientist or simply mad, there is no mistaking his motivation.

Last week at the RBC Heritage, before he set out for his first round as a professional, your scribe asked DeChambeau what he would be doing if he wasn’t tying for fourth at Harbour Town and threatening to change the face of the game.

The answer was telling.

“I would definitely be doing some research in the golf industry with a club manufacturer or doing research for biomechanics, on efficiencies of motion, that sort of stuff,” he said. “I like understanding how the body works and how it can work most efficiently.”

If that is a bit too detailed for you, stop reading.

DeChambeau is the antithesis of many modern PGA Tour professionals: He’s outgoing, engaging, insightful, thoughtful and, yes, extremely confident with his own abilities and his unique method of playing the game.

Some would, and have, used the term cocky to describe DeChambeau, but that’s a wild oversimplification of an exceedingly complex young man.

DeChambeau doesn’t just want to win on Tour and contend in majors and represent the United States in whatever team match is on that season’s calendar – the normal check list for newcomers – he wants to change the game.

If that seems a bit lofty for your average 22-year-old, he’s actually been on a mission to challenge golf’s dogma since 2011 when he roped a 5-iron from 205 yards right at the pin while playing Dragonfly Golf Club’s second hole.

“I turned to Mike [Schy, his swing coach] and said, ‘This could change the game,’” said DeChambeau of that first field test of his 37 1/2-inch 5-iron. “Wouldn’t it make so much sense to a player to keep the same posture every single time no matter the shot?”

All of DeChambeau’s irons are the same length, 37 1/2 inches, which is the average length of a 7-iron shaft and, not coincidentally, DeChambeau’s favorite club.

“The reason people get hurt is because you’re changing your posture and moving your body at different angles. That’s why they have a favorite club because they are more comfortable at a certain angle,” he patiently explained last week. “If you change the angle you’re not as efficient and eventually your body gives out.”

Single-length, single-swing simplicity is the cornerstone of DeChambeau’s philosophy, which was born from “The Golfing Machine,” the 1969 Homer Kelley swing manifesto that is billed as “simple geometry and everyday physics.”

“The Golfing Machine” is not an easy read, nor are DeChambeau’s theories easy to digest, but that hasn’t stopped players from Rory McIlroy to Phil Mickelson from taking a peek at his unique clubs.

Simply put, curious minds want to know, and to DeChambeau’s credit he’s more than willing to walk anyone with even a passing interest through his swing philosophies.

That curiosity has spilled over to the general public in large part thanks to DeChambeau’s tie for 21st at the Masters and his top-5 debut in Hilton Head.

According to Cobra Puma Golf CEO Bob Philion, who recently signed DeChambeau to a “long-term” endorsement deal, the “intrigue factor” in the single-length concept was over 90 percent in a recent consumer survey.

Although Philion concedes the potential to market and sell single-length iron sets depends largely on DeChambeau’s continued success at the professional level, the public’s initial reaction has been encouraging.

“The intrigue factor is off the charts. We’re getting smarter every day,” Philion said. “People are interested and they want to try it. My question is, do they want to buy it? That’s some of the research that we’re doing.”

As daunting as cutting a new path into the golf club market may sound, Philion explains that it might be the perfect product to stand out in an extremely crowded market space.

“In terms of single-length irons, we look at it as an opportunity. We’re doing a lot of research and homework right now in that space and we’re intrigued with some of the findings,” Philion said. “As difficult as it may be to market single-length, it may be even more challenging to be in a space with variable length where all of our competitors are basically telling the same message.

“You see consumers standing in front of that iron wall and they can be bamboozled really quickly with the number of options.”

Philion uses his first trip to Dragonfly Golf Club just outside of Fresno, Calif., as an example of DeChambeau’s potential impact on the game.

“When I went to visit Mike Schy and see what they were doing up in Fresno, there were 100 kids out there that were thinking he’s the way and they are all trying to do single-length and follow in his footsteps,” Philion said.

For Philion and Cobra Puma, DeChambeau was the perfect fit for a company that embraces individuality – different and determined.

But the eureka moment came weeks after that first trip to Dragonfly when the two sides met to sign the endorsement contract.

“I can honestly say he’s the first player to ever sign a deal left-handed [DeChambeau is right-handed] and backwards,” Philion laughed.

What else would one expect from a 22-year-old engineering major who wants to change the game one single-length swing at a time?

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.