Cerebral DeChambeau keeps it simple as pro life nears

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2016, 3:50 pm

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.

DeChambeau will play all three of the European Tour’s desert swing events this month followed by starts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Masters before turning pro at the RBC Heritage.

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.

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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?

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.