It was always going to take something special to draw attention away from Spieth and McIlroy in Abu Dhabi , but Bryson DeChambeau certainly fits the bill.
How many other players would describe themselves as a “golfing scientist” and cut all of their irons to the same length, never mind floating their golf balls in Epsom salts to check if they are perfectly round?
And how many would tell their father: “’Dad, I think I can change the game of golf,” when they were still in high school?
It is a confidence which could easily be misinterpreted as cockiness, but the 22-year-old physics major has already joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Ryan Moore in winning the NCAA and US Amateur titles in the same season, while his opening 64 in Abu Dhabi had playing partner Chris Paisley describing him as “quite possibly the most impressive player I have ever seen”.
”It was quite incredible,” DeChambeau said of his round, which contained seven birdies, an eagle, and one bogey. “I had no expectations and was just able to freewheel a little bit and that allows me to do my best.
“I’ve learned to believe in myself. That’s the ticket. It happened at the NCAAs and I’m just growing that confidence, that belief, each and every single day. Today definitely helped.
“Today I learned that I didn’t have my best on the range and I still managed to perform. I was hitting it a little off with the driver and I just came out and got my B game into play. I was able to keep it in the fairways and then my iron play was stellar today.
“Once I got comfortable with the driver on the first couple of holes, I started whaling away on a couple and got around some corners and was able to have some shorter irons into greens and I was able to make some birdies.”
DeChambeau has two distinct swings with his driver — a “fairway finder” and “crank” swing for extra distance — but his irons have all been modified to be the length of a six iron. Rather than traditional numbering, they are differentiated by the degree of loft stamped on the sole.
“They are all the same length, same lie angle, same shaft, just different loft,” explained DeChambeau, who is set to turn professional after playing in the Masters in April. “There is four degrees of loft difference on average. It works pretty well. It helps me keep my same posture, same set-up, same everything.
“It came from my coach and I. We thought, there has to be a better way to play golf and it came about from The Golfing Machine (a book by Homer Kelley).
“I chose this variation on The Golfing Machine where it allowed me to swing on the same plane and when I did that, I realised I couldn’t do that with a wedge and a three iron, I would be changing body motions. And I said that doesn’t make sense, let’s make them on the same lie angle and same length.”
Asked if he considered himself a trailblazer, DeChambeau added: “You look at trends in humanity and they like following the norm.
“You’ve got a couple of other people out there like Einstein or George Washington and they just stood out and capitalised on their differences and showed the world a little different side.”
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