DeChambeau figuring it out after trying start to career

By Ryan LavnerMarch 10, 2017, 10:05 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – There’s a learning curve for any PGA Tour rookie. New cities. New courses. New lifestyle.

But Bryson DeChambeau is not like any rookie. He’s not like any other professional golfer, really.

No one else is asked at every tournament stop to explain the physics behind his single-length set of irons. (Google it.)

Or to answer if he’s always been an “odd bird.” (Yep.)

Or to name the geekiest thing he’s ever done on the course (“The laminar flow and the air density is moving a little downward,” he once told a bewildered caddie), to discuss his college GPA (got some Cs!) and to ponder whether his peers think he’s a weirdo (take a guess).  

No one else has been ripped by a fellow player on Twitter for withdrawing from a tournament; roasted for complaining about the USGA seemingly picking on him; and mocked for “changing the game” one missed cut at a time.

It’s not even spring, and the polarizing DeChambeau has already endured a trying rookie year on Tour.

“It’s matured me, for sure,” he said Friday after rounds of 67-70 lifted him into the top 10 at the Valspar Championship.

“Definitely messed up a couple of things. But I’m 23. I’m going to make mistakes, and everybody is going to view me as the villain. I wasn’t trying to do anything to ruffle any feathers, but right now, I’m learning what to say, how to say things, and getting better at doing it.”

To his credit, DeChambeau usually stands up and answers the same questions every week. It has to get old, but he grins and bears it all. It’s the cost of trying to revolutionize golf.

Valspar Championship: Articles, photos and videos

He’s the first to admit that there have been a few missteps along the way. There was the scheduling error, flying across the country from Demo Day to Torrey Pines. Then there was the PR mess, when he said that the USGA was “not a good organization” after they ruled one of his sidesaddle putters was nonconforming. (It likely won’t be his last run-in with the governing bodies). 

Rookie mistakes, but he doesn’t have the benefit of anonymity – he’s one of only two newcomers with a TV commercial.

“There’s a lot of people looking down on me,” he said.

And poor golf has made him an easy target. He has made only three of 10 cuts, with no finish inside the top 30. His normally reliable ball-striking has failed him. His putting has been abysmal. Of course, in typical Bryson fashion, it hasn’t dented his confidence.

“I know I can play with the best of them,” he said. “I know I can be one of the best in the world at one point in time, and I’m looking forward to striving for that.”

For the first time all year, he is moving in the right direction.

It started Wednesday, when his father, Jon, received a kidney after years of waiting. Both of his kidneys failed in 2014. His health was rapidly declining. “It was close,” DeChambeau said.

Bryson called the donor, Ron Bankofier, before the surgery and thanked him for saving his father’s life. Then he called his dad and, as usual, told him to “just keep swimming” – an inside joke in the family, from the movie, “Finding Nemo.”

Lately, Jon DeChambeau has turned that phrase around on his son, as the disappointing results stacked up.

And so Bryson kept working, kept hitting balls, kept searching for a solution. He said his ball-striking is now as sharp as it was in college – when he won the NCAAs and U.S. Amateur in the same summer – and maybe even better. “It’s going to get to a point where it’s just automatic,” he said.

To address his putting, he spent a recent weekend in Orlando working on a Quintec software program that measures the launch of a putt. Sik Golf built him a 44-inch putter that he holds against his left forearm – the style popularized by Matt Kuchar – and he proved a quick learner.

“I was a machine on that system,” he said, “just one after the next.” 

Ranked 211th in strokes gained-putting this season (better than only two players on Tour), this week he is currently ranked 19th through two rounds.

“I think he’s finally on to something,” said his new caddie Micah Fugitt, who is on the bag after spending more than five years with Billy Horschel.

But as it usually goes with DeChambeau, questions arose about his new method. Rule 14-1b allows a player to hold the club anywhere below the elbow joint, but at certain angles on television it appeared that it might be above the elbow.

When asked about it Friday, DeChambeau shrugged. “People are just going to try and knock me down everywhere.”

And you checked with the rules officials?, he was asked.

“Yeah, I’m not dumb!” he said with a laugh. “Come on, guys!”

But his new putting stroke underscores two points: (1) He’s willing to push the limits to maximize his performance, and (2) he’s always going to be a target for questioning, because he’s different.

And that’s OK with Bryson. 

Six months into his Tour career, he is growing more comfortable in the spotlight, increasingly aware that everything he does – everything he tries, everything he says – will be subject to intense scrutiny. 

He’s a rookie in status only.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “For doing kind of some weird stuff, a lot of guys were looking at me weird. I didn’t really mean for that to happen at all.

“But I’ve got great support. Today I had some guys going, ‘Come on, Bryson!’ So it was great to hear that again. To get that feeling back in the repertoire is nice.”

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”