Bryson DeChambeau rides rules relief in injury return, floats long drive appearance after Masters
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Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
Bryson DeChambeau makes birdie on No. 9 at WGC-Dell Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas – Bryson DeChambeau battled to a tie with Richard Bland in his long-awaited return from injury, before confirming he may compete in another long drive competition a week after the upcoming Masters.
DeChambeau and Bland couldn’t be separated after 18 holes at the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play, the first time the big-hitting American has played on the PGA TOUR since missing the cut in January’s Farmers Insurance Open. The eight-time winner was recovering from a fractured hamate bone in his left hand and a torn labrum in his left hip.
The 28-year-old could have been staring down a loss against the veteran Englishman but was the beneficiary of a mid-round rule change from TOUR officials that helped preserve his position in the match.
DeChambeau was granted free relief from a sprinkler head on the drivable par-4 13th hole at Austin Country Club, despite the fact Belgium’s Thomas Pieters was denied it in the same circumstances earlier in the day.
The issue reared up thanks to some unfortunate wind gusts during course set up that saw the red hazard line paint find its way onto the edge of the sprinkler head, effectively making an area that should be outside a penalty area, inside it.
When Pieters found himself resting on top of the sprinkler but up against red painted grass in his match against Tom Hoge, he was denied permission to move his ball. While technically a correct call by the official, it was not how the course was intended to play. As a result the incident prompted the rules committee to deliberate quickly and a decision was made to amend the hazard line.
But before they could change the paint, DeChambeau’s match reached the 13th hole and he chipped his second shot into the same place. After discussion with officials DeChambeau was afforded relief, tied the hole, and officials repainted as they left the green.
“Two wrongs don't make a right. To make the correction before Bryson's match got there was important,” Chief Referee Gary Young explained.
“There was nothing we could do to fix the Thomas Pieters situation. It was over with. But just to get it right was important. The decision had already been made prior to his ball getting there. We had discussed it. We were in the process of getting the paint to the location, and the call came from the official.”
Had this been a stroke play event the change would not have been able to have been made but as DeChambeau’s ruling had no effect on Pieters’ match, or any others on the course, the adjustment could be made.
Pieters lost the 13th hole to Hoge to reduce his lead to two holes and was visibly upset with the decision. Thankfully, despite losing the 14th as well, he was able to rally and close out a 2-up win.
“One of the rules officials come up and he clarified it to me that Thomas didn’t get relief but they changed it because it just wasn’t right and apparently, they can do that in match play,” DeChambeau said post-match. “So, I felt really bad for him, but lucky break for me.”
DeChambeau gave himself a pass mark in his return despite being far from his best. He missed his title defense at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and THE PLAYERS Championship during his hiatus and only began practicing five days prior.
“I was very cautious, there were a lot of drives out there that felt really bad because it’s not going places I want it to go. (That’s) just because I’m not confident with how my wrists are moving through it,” DeChambeau said.
“That will get ironed out over time, a little bit of nerves, calming that down, and playing golf again. I started touching a club last Friday and six weeks off is not an easy task to come back and play against the best in the world.
“(The injuries) are fine… as of right now it’s holding up well and I pray it holds up the whole way.”
If his body does hold up through this tournament, next week’s Valero Texas Open, and then the Masters, DeChambeau floated a return to the Professional Long Drivers Association’s next event at Hobe Sound in Florida on April 14-16. DeChambeau made it through to the final eight in the World Championships in Mesquite, Nevada last year and hopes to continue his quest for even more power, speed and distance.
“If I’m progressing positively and not overdoing it every day and having these micro progressions and I get to Augusta where I am close to 200mph ball speed again, there is a possibility if nothing gives out, and its structurally stable, that I’ll do that,” DeChambeau said about the Florida competition.
“I want to do it, I love it, it’s one of my favorite things to do to help grow the sport a bit. I know this (PGA TOUR) is where my home is, but at the end of the day I want to expand out and try and give people a little bit of a show too.”
First up is Thursday’s match against Lee Westwood in Group 9 play, a match he can’t afford to lose if he is to stay alive in the title race.