ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Bryson DeChambeau refers to himself as a “golfing scientist,” but on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he looked more like a golf star.
The American amateur recorded just four pars in an opening nine of 32 and two-putted for birdie at the last for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead over the high-profile likes of Henrik Stenson (65), Rory McIlroy (66) and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth (68).
Playing in his seventh professional event (he tied for second at last year’s Australian Masters), DeChambeau was nearly flawless after what he called a poor warm up, rolling in a 20-footer for eagle at the eighth hole and taking just 27 putts.
“Why be nervous,” he smiled when asked if his position atop such a deep leaderboard was at all disconcerting. “If I hit a bad shot it’s just a chance to show my grace and my character.”
DeChambeau, who won last year’s U.S. Amateur and was the NCAA individual champion, plans to play all three desert swing events, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Masters as an amateur before turning pro the week of the RBC Heritage.
DeChambeau considers himself an pro golf “intern,” and on Tuesday he played a nine-hole practice round with Spieth, “Just for the chance to watch how he prepares,” he said.
Asked what he learned about himself on Thursday in Abu Dhabi he offered a predictably thoughtful take, “I didn’t have my best on the range, but I was able to score which was huge,” he said.