Far from amateur hour for DeChambeau
The 22-year-old amateur is in contention as the weekend looms at Augusta National
April 08, 2016
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Bryson DeChambeau walks on the 18th green during the second round of the 2016 Masters Tournament. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Amateurs have always figured prominently in the lore of the Masters.
Bobby Jones, who helped found Augusta National and nurtured the season's first major from its inception, never turned pro. Yet he won four U.S. Opens and three Open Championships before retiring from the game in 1930 at the age of 28 to make his living in the law.
Not coincidentally, the Masters has always made it a point to recognize the game's best who do not come to play for pay. And one of those amateurs, Billy Joe Patton, a North Carolina lumber executive, nearly won the championship in 1954, finishing one stroke out of a playoff with Ben Hogan and Sam Snead.
Now meet Bryson DeChambeau. He's the latest on the landscape, a 22-year-old Southern Methodist product, the reigning U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion, who wants to go one better than Patton.
Granted, DeChambeau has some ground to recover after a triple bogey on the 18th hole Friday dropped him back to even par and into a tie for eighth. Two holes earlier, though, the Californian held sole possession of second and he was tied there with former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy when he stepped to the 18th tee.
"He's not scared of the moment," said Jordan Spieth, who played with DeChambeau during the first two rounds and sits atop the leaderboard at 4 under. "... Look for him on the weekend. Look for him on the weekend to be a contender."
Interestingly, the two young men are contemporaries, both 22 years old. Spieth left Texas after his sophomore year, won on the PGA TOUR when he was 19 and owns two majors and the FedExCup after last year's Player of the Year campaign.
DeChambeau's path has been different, but only slightly. He opted for what he calls an "internship" after his dual amateur wins, bypassing his senior year at SMU when the program was banned from this year's NCAA postseason because of recruiting violations. He's used several starts in professional events to prepare for life as a pro, which begins next week at the RBC Heritage.
"I knew I had this time to get ready, and kind of what we were trying to do was take my rookie year out of it," DeChambeau explained. "I'll still be a rookie, but at the same time that was our goal and I think we've done it so far beautifully."
For two more days, though, DeChambeau will still be a somewhat quirky amateur who has named each of his irons, including one called Tin Cup, says he's a pseudo physics nut and wears a Hogan cap that harkens back to fellow SMU alum Payne Stewart.
DeChambeau has big-time game, too, and a solid self-assurance, not unlike Spieth, that he can make something historic happen this weekend. And why shouldn't he be confident?
The wind was brutal on Friday, and Augusta National's undulating greens grew crustier as the day progressed. Yet, DeChambeau managed six birdies and until he tripled the 18th was looking to post what would have been the day's only score in the 60s.
And make no mistake. DeChambeau wasn't thinking about seeing his name on those iconic white leaderboards or playing his way into the final group on Saturday when he teed off on the 18th.
Yes, the drive landed in a holly bush and forced him to take an unplayable lie. He came back to the tee and hit his third, this one even further left, took a drop, finally found the green with his fifth and two-putted for the 7.
"It was just one bad swing away on 18 from being the one that's T2 or even tied for first," Spieth said.
World Golf Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie was impressed with DeChambeau's demeanor.
"Great attitude when he finished with a 7 and he walked off as if he birdied it," Montgomerie said on Golf Channel. "That was the most impressive thing today.”
"It's just a golf shot," DeChambeau said. "People think, 'Oh, my gosh, he was nervous.' No, I wasn't nervous. I pulled two shots. It's a disappointing factor. But again that's golf. You've got to learn from that and play your best tomorrow."
DeChambeau will look to eliminate mistakes and "clean up" his play on the par 5s as the weekend progresses. He's just 1 under for two rounds on Augusta National's normally most generous holes.
"Look, if I birdie half the ... par 5s these past couple days, I'm in the lead or close to the lead, right at the lead," DeChambeau explains. "So that's what I have to take care of, first and foremost."
Prior to Friday, the last amateur in the top 10 after any round at the Masters was Ryan Moore, who stood tied for sixth at the midway point of the 2005 tournament. He ended up tied for 13th but DeChambeau is looking for more.
"I was patient, very patient out there," he said. "I was hitting it really well, and that ultimately allowed me to perform at a high level, a really high level, one that I know I can play in any tournament, any golf tournament.
"And I think that if I can stay that way and keep performing at the high level, I think you know the rest."