ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – As is normally the case with Bryson DeChambeau, Tuesday’s abbreviated practice round was a learning experience.
He watched Jordan Spieth, studying every nuance as the world No. 1 prepared for this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and he meticulously analyzed this week’s golf course.
“It’s all I need, one round,” said DeChambeau, who will set out this week as an amateur.
While some will interpret that response as boastful, it’s more the byproduct of DeChambeau’s uncanny attention to detail and an exceedingly big brain.
His major at Southern Methodist was physics and he plays a set of Edel Golf irons that are all the same length, based on the idea of a single swing and data gathered after reading “The Golf Machine” by Homer Kelley.
In short, DeChambeau is smarter than most, but there are certain things the 22-year-old soon-to-be professional likes to keep simple.
This week’s event, for example, is the start of what promises to be a whirlwind for DeChambeau, who left SMU last fall after winning the NCAA individual title and U.S. Amateur.
All total, DeChambeau will play seven events on sponsor exemptions, the maximum number allowed for a non-member on the PGA Tour, in the hopes of earning enough money, or FedEx Cup points, to become a full member.
That, however, is not something DeChambeau has spent much time thinking about.
“It’s a full schedule, but with expectations you are always limiting yourself so when I put expectations on the board it always limits me,” he said. “My expectations are none. I try to go and learn something, like playing with Jordan today, it’s a learning process. I’m an intern.”
“Jordan,” of course, would be the current world No. 1, who DeChambeau played a nine-hole practice round with on Tuesday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
DeChambeau’s friendship with last year’s PGA Tour Player of the Year began a few years ago when he roomed with Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, in Columbus, Ohio.
He also made a point of lingering around the 18th green last year at Chambers Bay to congratulate Spieth after he’d won the U.S. Open. But on Tuesday the cerebral DeChambeau just wanted to study how the two-time major champion prepares for an event.
“You learn little fine things he does different from others. Out there he’s extremely comfortable, but it’s how he acts,” DeChambeau said. “You see how he’s attentive with his chipping and gets comfortable with the grass. I can see that, it’s pretty interesting.”
In an interesting twist, Spieth did some learning of his own on Tuesday as well, taking a few moments on the 12th green to study DeChambeau’s putter from Edel Golf before declaring it, “the best-looking putter I’ve seen in a long time.”
“It’s really unique to have someone of his stature come over and say something like that. It’s really special,” DeChambeau said. “It adds a little bit of confidence.”
But then lagging confidence has not really been an issue for DeChambeau since he tore through the amateur ranks with his NCAA and U.S. Amateur victories, but seeing it firsthand alongside the world’s top players has hammered the point home.
For DeChambeau it’s been exchanges like the one he had on Monday night as he relaxed on a nearby beach with Rickie Fowler that have been so enlightening.
“I asked him what made the difference for him and he said it was the belief,” said DeChambeau, who left SMU early after the NCAA levied sanctions against the school last year. “It was kind of the same boat I was in at NCAAs and it changed my whole perception of golf.”
DeChambeau’s professional “internship” actually began last week as he made the rounds in Southern California to various equipment companies in preparation of his debut in the play-for-pay set.
In quintessential DeChambeau style, he said on Tuesday that no decision has been made regarding who he might sign an endorsement deal with, but whichever company wins the Bryson lottery it will certainly be a well-researched choice.
“It went really well, and we’re looking at all options and will make sure we make the best possible decision based on performance first and any financial interest after that,” he said.
As for the next few weeks, DeChambeau is taking an exceedingly more simplistic approach.
“If I hit every single shot the way I want to, everything else will come,” he said. “If a win comes, it comes. If it comes five years down the road, it comes five years down the road. I don’t think it will take that long, but the more I learn the better I will be.”
What else would one expect from a physics major?