DeChambeau is the most interesting golfer since Moe Norman!
Certain golfers seem destined to enter the game’s history as genuine characters. Of course, top performers often only appear to be so, because even normal traits placed under a magnifying glass can start to look like eccentricities. But the truest criteria for character status are personality, an appealing narrative and a distinctive natural style. To make the cut, it must all add up to being interestingly different.
At 22, Bryson DeChambeau already checks all the latter boxes as he turns professional after a spectacular late burst as an amateur. In less than a year, the relatively unknown kid from Clovis in California’s dusty Central Valley has become the golf insiders’ favorite topic of curiosity.
There’s no doubt he’s interestingly different.
As a former physics major at SMU, where he skipped his senior year after the school’s golf team was ruled ineligible for postseason play, DeChambeau has a game built on the principles of two arcane science-based golf tomes: The Golfing Machine,by Homer Kelley, and Vector Putting, by H.A. Templeton. Kelley’s 1969 book was the basis for DeChambeau’s decision five years ago to create a set of irons that are all the same length. On the course, he sports a distinctive cap evocative of Ben Hogan—though as a knit by Kangol it harkens to Payne Stewart and Calvin Peete, the slimmer lines modulating a head and features that resemble Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The jock theme is reinforced by DeChambeau’s 6-1, 200-pound physique, but the science-geek persona gains traction with his pastimes like table tennis, shuffleboard, and slacklining—walking along thin straps of tubular webbing stretched between trees like a tightrope—all of which he says improve his “proprioception.” (Quick translation: coordination.)
Of course, DeChambeau can play.
Last year he became only the fifth player, joining Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore, to win the NCAA and U.S. Amateur championships in the same year. In the seven pro events DeChambeau played in his amateur apprenticeship leading up to the Masters, he made six cuts, including a T-2 at last year’s Australian Masters. His ambitious goal is to capitalize on the seven sponsor exemptions he can count on this season to earn his PGA Tour card, as Jordan Spieth did in 2013 (After finishing T-21 in the Masters, DeChambeau made his pro debut at Hilton Head and finished T-4).
DeChambeau knows he has a presence, and he has a mission. His most stated goal is to influence the game’s multitudes and bring more people to golf. He has been inspired by two meetings with Arnold Palmer, whose example of giving back on a large scale he expects to emulate. Because at this point in his life, Bryson DeChambeau is pretty sure he can do anything.
Consider his explanation for writing his full name backward with his left hand, which could be taken as the DeChambeau Manifesto.
“It’s not talent, it’s just practice,” he says in a voice that sounds like it belongs to an older person. “If I wanted to learn Arabic or Russian, I could. Or tie my shoes in a new way, I could. Why? Dedication. I’m not really smart, but I’m dedicated. I can be good at anything if I love it and dedicate myself. And I love history, love science. I love music and golf, love learning, and life. I love trying to be the best at anything and everything.”
Yes, DeChambeau can come on strong, in a way that could easily come off as grandstanding to his peers. But it’s telling that amateurs like him as he compes against and has been well-received by pros.
Photos: Walter Iooss Jr.
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