The Mad Scientist:  Bryson DeChambeau

    The Mad Scientist: Bryson DeChambeau

    One player who garnered a lot of attention on day one of the Masters was US Amateur and NCAA champion Bryan DeChambeau, who was playing his last tournament before turning professional. DeChambeau is a unique personality. He studied physics at Southern Methodist University and definitely takes a scientific approach to the game of golf.

    DeChambeau is a bit of a throwback, sporting a Ben Hogan style cap as he makes his way around a golf course. He’s best known for having 37 ½ inch shafts in every iron in his bag. All golfers, but perhaps very few non-golfers, know that the club length gets shorter as you work your way up from 3-iron through pitching wedge. Essentially, all of DeChambeau’s irons are all the length of a typical 6 or 7-iron. DeChambeau also employs a single plane, upright golf swing that features very little wrist cock. It looks different because it is different. But, make no mistake, the kid can play and proved it in the opening round with an even par 72 on a very difficult day at Augusta National. With the exception of a few bad holes, he played very solidly all week finishing in a tie for 21st place.

    He developed his unique approach to the game through his coach Mike Schy. Schy was exposed to a book – The Golfing Machine – as a teenager. The book was written by a Seattle airplane mechanic named Homer Kelly. The book, a kind of self-published cult classic, struck a chord with Schy who had it in his book bag every day of high school. It’s as if he found the Holy Grail and decided to keep the only copy in his possession. He gave the book to DeChambeau who liked the scientific explanations of how the golf swing works mechanically. The other person important to this story is a gentleman some golf fans are familiar with, Moe Norman. Norman popularized the “natural” golf swing as an alternative to the traditional way of doing things. Norman’s swing is an arms-extended motion that DeChambeau doesn’t fully replicate but definitely has incorporated into his own.

    His seemingly radical ways scared off college golf coaches and even DeChambeau’s father. But, he stuck with it and got first Taylor Made and then Edel Golf to make him custom clubs. It has been reported that he will announce a deal with Cobra Golf when he makes his professional debut following the Masters.

    DeChambeau continued to play very well on Saturday, until the 18th hole, his 36th hole of the tournament when a huge hook off the tee led to a triple bogey 7, his first stumble of the day. In a span of 10 minutes, he went from three under par to even par for the tournament.

    DeChambeau also incorporates a very analytical approach to course management. If you watched him play during the Masters you saw him consulting his yardage book a lot more than your typical touring pro. His extensive note taking and analytical approach to the game is just another facet that make this unique soon-to-be rookie a player to keep our eyes on.

    It will be fascinating to see what the future holds for DeChambeau. The only other players to win the U.S. Amateur and NCAA Championship in the same year are Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore – two Hall of Fame golfers and a solid touring professional. The willingness to defy convention and pioneer a new approach to a game that’s been taught the same way for several decades is admirable. DeChambeau is confident with his approach and his track record to date suggests that pundits shouldn’t be quick to write him off. His play at the 80th Masters this past weekend provided additional affirmation.