ORLANDO, Florida – Another day, another Bryson DeChambeau “layup” on Bay Hill’s sixth hole.
And again, the fans let him hear it.
John Daly would go for it!
Even DeChambeau’s playing competitor, Jordan Spieth, joined in on the playful banter.
“That's the only reason I played this week was to see you hit it over the lake,” Spieth told DeChambeau.
But let DeChambeau explain: “The wind actually switched off the left and in. It was really weird. … Hopefully if it's downwind, consistently downwind, and I'm comfortable with it, I'll take it up by the green. But today it wasn't an opportunity again. Everybody thinks it was, but no matter what they say, you weren't in that situation and couldn't feel the wind.”
With a nasty cold front arriving in force on Saturday, it’s looking less likely that DeChambeau will deliver his promised poke – no matter what he says. But worry not, DeChambeau’s traveling show is still more than capable of entertaining the masses, and the final act could see DeChambeau deliver in a different way: by winning.
DeChambeau sits at 6 under, just three shots back of leader Corey Conners, midway through the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He followed his opening 5-under 67 with a hard-fought 71 on Friday that included several impressive tee balls.
He cut the corner at the 381-yard 10th hole, leaving himself just 39 yards into the green.
He did the same at the 460-yard 15th and had only 106 yards in.
And for the second straight day, he led the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee (+2.411) and driving distance (309.5 yards)
“I got the text on Tuesday with the pairing and I thought, What better place to be paired with him than here, with some of these holes?” Spieth said. “What's amazing to me, obviously it's coming off his driver fast, which it does for Rory [McIlroy] and Cam Champ – there's a number of guys who strike the ball and it just sounds a little different like that – but the amount of control he has with how hard he's going at it is really impressive. I mean, he's driving the ball extremely well and straight.
“I mean, if I'm going to be shorter than him, I would like to be straighter, and I don't think I was these two days.”
While DeChambeau continues to groove his dialed-back fairway finder with “The Kraken” still on vacation, he entered the interview tent looking slightly defeated. The culprit: “Wedges were, quite honestly, some of the worst I've had in a long time,” he said.
Remember that drive on No. 10? DeChambeau missed the green short and made par.
At No. 15, he wedged it to 35 feet and had to sink a 4-footer to save par.
The 139-yarder into the back bunker at No. 13 wasn’t great, either.
Even at the closing hole, DeChambeau had 161 yards to the flag but hit a pitching wedge that came out of the rough 15 yards left of where he was aiming, the shot finishing on the fringe about 40 feet away. Another par.
“To me, that's pretty sad,” DeChambeau said. “I don't know why the reasons are. I feel like there's something weird with the connection of the ball to the face with the speeds that I'm producing. I had fresh grooves this week and I went and registered them on the range they were actually spinning less off the face. So, something really weird is going on.”
Yet, despite his wedge woes, DeChambeau is very much in the thick of things at Arnie’s Place. His length remains a huge advantage. On Friday, he birdied three of Bay Hill’s long par-3s, holes of 200-plus yards where he’s hitting 7- and 8-irons into. And with rain expecting to soak the already difficult layout, that should play right into DeChambeau’s hands.
It might just keep him on the conservative line at No. 6.
But it could land him a red cardigan.
"I'm three shots back," DeChambeau said. "I'll take my chances right now."