Smotherman uses motivation from college teammate DeChambeau in Savannah
October 01, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Smotherman opened with a bogey-free 66 in Savannah. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
While at SMU, Austin Smotherman saw early glimpses of the kind of work ethic that has made Bryson DeChambeau a long-hitting major champion.
“His brain is always on,” Smotherman said of DeChambeau Thursday from the Savannah Golf Championship, after he opened with a 6-under-par 66. “I don’t know how he falls asleep.”
Smotherman, who with his wife Jessica, lived in DeChambeau’s Dallas home from October 2018 until February 2019 after playing golf together in college, said he’s heard from DeChambeau of nights where the seven-time PGA TOUR winner would want to do a squat or curl a certain weight and he’d just get up and do it.
“It might be 10:45 at night and he’ll walk out to his garage and flip on a switch and just start working out. It might be 20 minutes, it might be 40 minutes, but he just wanted to go test. ‘Why wait for the morning when I have time right now,’ he’d say,” said Smotherman. “There is just zero wasted time.”
Smotherman’s 2020 Korn Ferry Tour campaign has been a bit of a tale of two seasons – unlike DeChambeau, who ripped off results of T3-T8-T6-1 after the COVID-19 break and won the U.S. Open two weeks ago – where he’d have some solid results but came into Savannah after three missed cuts in a row.
He said he felt as if he “came out firing on all cylinders” after the COVID-19 break and had good events and even got into contention at the TPC San Antonio Championship at the Oaks (he’d go on to finish fourth). But after that he said he ended up getting away from his values. He didn’t stick to his process, he said, and began to get ahead of himself.
“That’s dangerous for us golfers,” he admitted.
That lasted a couple of weeks, he said, but he’s since began to get back to what he does best.
To open the Savannah Golf Championship his 6-under effort featured no bogeys. He birdied each of the par fives at the Deer Creek Course at The Landings Club.
“I hit a lot of fairways. Overall I just hit it in the right spots and hit it tight on the back nine and played the par fives well. I had 135-145 in a bunch today and that’s just a good controlled pitching wedge for me,” he said. “I’ve just been super steady and had a good mindset. That’s been my mentality – just have fun.”
Smotherman said the key for his opening round was making birdie on the par-5 18th. It was playing into the wind Thursday and with the wet fairways there was no way he could have gone for the green in two. He got away with a “weak” wedge shot, he said, from about 95 yards. It spun back off a ridge and he drained the 10-foot birdie try to get to 3-under through nine.
He capitalized on that momentum to shoot a matching 3-under on his back nine (the front at The Landings Club) and was inside the top-10 late in the afternoon Thursday.
While he’s not yet won on the Korn Ferry Tour – he’s 61st on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List – Smotherman has his eyes on a bigger goal, thanks to what he’s seen from DeChambeau in 2020: he wants to be a major champion, too.
He admitted it’s been tough to not compare himself to DeChambeau. But he realizes what DeChambeau has been able to do has been historically significant. The list of golfers who have won both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open, for example, feature names like Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer.
“We played against each other for so long and to see the results he’s having you start thinking, ‘why not me’ at times,” said Smotherman.
Smotherman said he gets his confidence from being on the course while DeChambeau gets his from being on the driving range. If Smotherman tries to chase perfection on the range, he said, it’s not going to lead to good golf and that’s where they differ.
“The motivation side, though, is pretty sweet,” said Smotherman. “I wouldn’t mind adding another major championship to the SMU alumni list. That’s definitely a goal of mine.”