DeChambeau is part artist, part mad scientist

By Ryan LavnerAugust 22, 2015, 12:55 am

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Read the stories, watch the telecast, listen to his peers – Bryson DeChambeau is portrayed as an obsessive-compulsive, numbers-crazed techie who dissects a golf course.

There’s some truth to that, of course, but it’s clear that there’s also plenty of artistry that lives within the mad scientist.  

Consider that the three best shots he played Friday in his U.S. Amateur quarterfinal match against Paul Dunne had little to do with numbers or angles: He slashed out of the trees, chased a 225-yard, bullet 3-iron onto the green, and then backdoored a slick 40-footer with six feet of break.

The unlikely birdie on the sixth hole gave DeChambeau the first lead of the match. He never relinquished that advantage, going 5 under on a U.S. Open setup and cruising to a 3-and-2 victory in a potential Walker Cup preview.

DeChambeau, who will face USC sophomore Sean Crocker in the semifinals Saturday morning, is now two wins from joining an elite list of players – Jack Nicklaus (1961), Phil Mickelson (1990), Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004) – who won the NCAAs and U.S. Amateur in the same year.  

“I’m going to worry about myself, push the pedal to the metal, try to make birdie on every single hole and do my job,” he said.

Regardless of the outcome here at Olympia Fields, the 21-year-old SMU senior has positioned himself as one of America’s brightest prospects – and one of the most feared players in next month’s matches at Royal Lytham.

No, he doesn’t intimidate with big drives, flashy iron play or sublime putting. But his methodical approach to the game and hole-to-hole consistency can exasperate opponents and force them into mistakes.

His Round of 16 match Thursday against Stanford junior Maverick McNealy wasn’t just a battle between the reigning NCAA champion and national college player of the year. It was also a duel between two of the brightest minds in the amateur game.

DeChambeau majors in physics at SMU, and it’s easy to see that influence in his game. He employs a green-reading system called Vector Putting that factors in length of putt, percentage of slope and green speed, uses a torque-balanced putter that keeps his stroke square to the line, and cuts down his irons to the same length (37 1/2 inches, or a 6-iron) to create a one-plane swing.

This week, in fact, marks the four-year anniversary of when DeChambeau first inquired about single-length clubs. Two weeks after the Am – and after destroying a set of clubs during the experiment – he won a junior tournament and vowed to never look back.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


“As a teacher, I didn’t want to put him in our box,” said Mike Schy, his longtime coach and caddie this week. “At times it was a bit scary, because he wanted to try things, but it was just a golf swing. Everybody panicked, like, ‘What are you doing with him?’ I said, ‘We’re not doing anything with him. He’s only 15!’ It’s crazy how people think, that you have to think a certain way.”

After all, Bubba Watson and Jim Furyk have unconventional swings. All they’ve done is combine for three majors, 25 wins and $95 million.

Clearly, unorthodox suits DeChambeau, as well.

When he won the NCAAs in June, his college coach, Jason Enloe, didn’t hesitate to call him the best ball-striker in the college game. “Possibly top 20 in the world,” Enloe added.

And he’s not dinking and dunking, either.

Last summer, DeChambeau worked with Schy to maximize his distance off the tee, to develop a go-to power shot when he needed to fly his drive over a bunker or a row of trees.

During a practice round at the 2014 U.S. Amateur, Enloe wandered up to the group and asked, naturally, “So, anything new in the bag?”

Schy gave DeChambeau the go-ahead to let one rip on the next tee.

It flew 340 in the air.

Schy turned to Enloe and smiled. “Yeah, that’s new in the bag,” he said.

DeChambeau has two swings with his driver: the “control” drive (112 mph) and then the big swing that he cranks up to 127. He hits it only a few times per round, only when he really needs the extra pop, and when he does there is no one longer in the college game.

Titanium-denting power is only helpful, however, when applied properly.

Last fall, DeChambeau attended a seminar at SMU conducted by former Web.com Tour player Scott Fawcett, who uses statistics to evaluate course-management decisions. Fawcett helped DeChambeau and the rest of his teammates understand the percentages of when to go for a flag and when to play conservatively. DeChambeau estimates that it saves him about a stroke per round.

“It’s more of a shotgun approach rather than a sniper approach,” he said. “We try to move that distribution to where you’re maximizing your potential of hitting the green every single time.”

Little wonder DeChambeau tends to play so slowly – there are a lot of numbers swirling underneath that Ben Hogan-style cap.

“He takes a very unique approach to the game and buys into it 100 percent,” McNealy said, “and that type of commitment is a huge part of what makes him successful. He’s very analytical and very calculating.”

McNealy is analytical as well, but in different aspects of the game. At Stanford, he is studying – deep breath – industrial engineering that is modified to add computer science and statistics, with a specific concentration in financial and decision engineering.

He’s a brilliant kid, the son of Scott McNealy, the former co-founder of Sun Microsystems, but on the course he is very much a feel player. He’ll take into account the most important numbers – the yardage, the slope, the wind strength and direction – get a feel for the shot and go.  

“Bryson, though, was very precise with everything,” McNealy said, “and I think there’s something to be said for that. I can see why he’s such a great player.”

DeChambeau has always wanted to model his game after “The Golfing Machine,” a book that Schy gave him when he was 15.

“We don’t talk about feel very much,” Schy said. “We try to take that out of our vocabulary, because we are both aware that feel will fail us most of the time. He’s been a numbers kid his whole life. He’s very comfortable talking numbers.”

The aspect of his game that doesn’t receive as much attention – or credit – is DeChambeau’s imagination, which was on display during his quarterfinal match against Dunne, the 22-year-old Irishman who last month shared the 54-hole lead at St. Andrews.

Sure, there were clever flop shots and finesse shots around trees and low-flighted wedges, but DeChambeau's best work Friday came after a rare errant drive.  

With his ball in the hazard right of the par-5 sixth, he grabbed a 9-iron, tiptoed into the brush and contorted his body around poison ivy leaves.

“Impossible Land,” Schy said.

DeChambeau somehow slashed out to give himself a long look with his third shot. The hole was playing into the wind, and from 225 yards he wouldn’t have been able to reach the green with his 20-degree hybrid because his ball would have ballooned into the air. Fortunately, he said, the ball was sitting down slightly in the rough, so he leaned forward and chased a shot onto the right part of the green, about 45 feet away.

“Honestly, I had a certain line on my putt,” he said, “and for some reason, I felt internally that I was supposed to aim a little bit more.”

So he did. And it dropped.

When asked to describe his game, DeChambeau offered this: “I would say that I am a feel player, but I’m also an extremely technical player and I try to balance both of them. If I’m able to do that, my game performs at its maximum potential.”

And has it reached that level this week?

“My game is the best it’s ever been right now,” he said, smiling. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.