DeChambeau ready for final amateur event at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerApril 3, 2016, 2:00 pm

The intern has one final task before his big promotion.

Over the past six months, Bryson DeChambeau has dropped out of school, intrigued pros from Argentina to Australia, and devoured Augusta National during marathon practice sessions. Having faced skepticism for years because of his quirky approach, DeChambeau’s worldwide apprenticeship has been so convincing that Vegas installed the 22-year-old amateur at 200-1 for next week’s Masters – or the same odds as 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, six-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan and Georgia resident Chris Kirk.

Ryan Moore’s tie for 13th at the 2005 Masters remains the standard by which all recent amateurs are measured. Though DeChambeau and his team don’t set goals – or at least don’t publicize them – it’s easy to decipher their expectations.

“You’ll never hear him say that his goal is to win,” said Mike Schy, DeChambeau’s longtime swing coach, “but his whole view is preparing to win. In his mind, if he doesn’t prepare 100 percent, that’s a true failure.”

DeChambeau’s transformation from curiosity to can’t-miss star was a recent development. The kid from Clovis, Calif., has always done things his own way. When DeChambeau was 15, Schy introduced him to “The Golfing Machine,” a teaching manual that allows a player to build his own swing with 24 different components and 144 variations. That appealed to DeChambeau’s analytical mind, and eventually he chose component 7 and variation A – a one-plane action originally designed for chipping that he adapted to the full swing. But that was only the beginning. To make his swing work, he crunched the numbers and concluded that he needed single-length irons.

“Most people say I’m the smart scientist,” he said, “and I don’t know if I’m truly that. I’m more of a good experimenter.”

But when he debuted his new set and swing in 2011, DeChambeau recalled, “people said, ‘This dude is crazy. He’s a nut job. He’s got no chance.’”

One of college golf’s most consistent performers, the SMU junior finally broke through last June at the NCAA Championship, a watershed victory that validated his unorthodox methods. Three months later, he steamrolled the field at the U.S. Amateur, becoming only the fifth player in history to win the NCAAs and U.S. Am in the same year. His game even traveled overseas, as he was one of the lone bright spots during an American loss at an away Walker Cup.

A nut job? Not anymore. Now, he was an innovator, a potentially transcendent figure who hoped to “revolutionize the game of golf in a unique way.”

What happened next was a blessing for his long-term prospects: Last October, the NCAA banned SMU from postseason play for one year after it uncovered recruiting and ethical violations by former head coach Josh Gregory.

It was already going to be a demanding year for DeChambeau. Last spring, Schy received two or three phone calls a week from his prized pupil as he left the library at 1 a.m. The physics major tried explaining what he was studying, but mostly he just wanted someone to talk to so he wouldn’t fall asleep on the drive back to his apartment. Even before the NCAA sanctions, DeChambeau was concerned about how he would balance his full course load to graduate, his role as the Mustangs’ leader and his preparations for the Masters. Ultimately, he chose to leave school but remain an amateur, at least through the year’s first major.

“I had two paths,” DeChambeau said, “and (the ban) made it real clear. It wasn’t the ultimate reason, I can tell you that, but it definitely helped push me in a certain direction.”

Freed up, DeChambeau embarked on an ambitious schedule of international pro events to test his game, a run that saw him travel from Argentina to Australia to Abu Dhabi to Qatar to Dubai. He downplayed the past six months as an “internship,” as an opportunity to learn from the game’s best about how to travel, what to eat and how to prepare for tournaments. But he proved a quick study, making the cut in six of those seven events, including a tie for second at the Australian Masters. He will make his much-anticipated pro debut April 14 at the RBC Heritage.

“It’s almost like taking my rookie year out,” he said.

Earlier this year, in Abu Dhabi, Rory McIlroy couldn't resist taking a peek inside DeChambeau’s bag, trying out his custom-made, 37 1/2-inch Edel irons on the range before concluding, “He’s much smarter than I am.” When they played together in the third round that week, DeChambeau blew up with a Saturday 78 and plummeted out of contention. But it was a different story two months later at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Paired on the final day, DeChambeau matched McIlroy shot for shot, eventually tying him with a closing 66 after three-putting the final green.

“If you keep playing like this,” McIlroy told him afterward, “I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”

But it’s not DeChambeau’s game that makes him unique. There are, quite literally, dozens of promising amateurs who are tearing up the college game, who are hungry, fearless and impatient. What separates DeChambeau is his look (Hogan-style cap, swing and clubs) his demeanor (exceedingly polite, but also supremely confident) and his approach, which is rooted in science and applied with creativity.

During a recent news conference at Bay Hill, DeChambeau discussed a wide array of topics, everything from why he isn’t afraid to fail (even citing Thomas Edison!) to the efficiencies of motion based on a person’s body type to the physics behind his golf clubs. (“I understood that if I was to swing one inch shorter, the head weight would need to be about 10 to 11 grams heavier to correlate to equal about the same force,” he said.) At the end of DeChambeau’s session, the PGA Tour media official on hand cracked, “Bryson, thank you. It’s been extremely educational for all of us.”

But on the course, DeChambeau isn’t bogged down by numbers or science. There is an artistic quality to his game, as well, as he’s a master shot-shaper with an ability to hit two drives: the “control” drive, with a 112-mph swing speed, and the big swing that tops out at 127. Off the course, he has been known to spend his precious free time creating a stippling drawing of Ben Hogan; practicing signing his name in cursive, left-handed and upside down; and soaking his golf balls in Epsom salt to determine how many are out of balance.

Sure, these are unusual hobbies for a 22-year-old who should be on the verge of college graduation, but his intelligence blended with a relentless work ethic produces undeniably great results.

“He’s really bright, very confident in his own way of doing things,” said defending Masters champion and fellow Dallas resident Jordan Spieth, “which is important and I think will get him and keep him on the next level.”

DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Amateur winner, will play the first two rounds next week with Spieth – a prime opportunity to put his exhaustive preparation on display. After first touring Augusta National in mid-December, DeChambeau has now played a total of eight rounds there. Two weeks ago, after his final tune-up at Bay Hill, he made his last scouting trip to Georgia, using the remainder of his five days that invitees are allowed to play alone while accompanied by a guest.

During practice rounds at Augusta, DeChambeau and Schy meticulously charted the greens, factoring in the percentage of slope, length of putt and speed. DeChambeau reached out to Phil Mickelson about what he can expect come tournament week. He lined up a practice round on Sunday with Ben Crenshaw. And he even spent two hours with CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz, borrowing DVDs of recent Masters so he could study hole locations, par-5 layup areas and subtle breaks on the greens.

“I think of him as a land surveyor,” Schy said. “This is about him understanding the nuances of elevation changes and contours of the green and how the greens respond to different angles of approach. That’s the science part; charting the golf course is like a surveyor’s map. He wants to know all of the nuances of the golf course as much as possible. It’s not being over-analytical – it’s being prepared. And when he is, it allows his creative side to come out.”

And so this is the intern’s final assignment, the week he’s been building toward, the moment when he puts the countless hours he’s devoted at Augusta into action on golf’s biggest stage, when the scientist gives way to the artist.

“We’re really close – he’s 90 percent ready,” Schy said. “I think he’s certainly ready to move on to the next stage. For that, he is 100 percent ready.”

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'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”