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Tour rookie Bryson DeChambeau embraces unconventional approach to playing golf

In an overcrowded tent filled largely with children from The First Tee of Charlotte, PGA rookie Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday seemed to enjoy answering their questions about golf and his game.
In an overcrowded tent filled largely with children from The First Tee of Charlotte, PGA rookie Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday seemed to enjoy answering their questions about golf and his game. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Inside an overcrowded tent filled largely with children from The First Tee of Charlotte Tuesday afternoon, five PGA Tour professionals were talking to the youngsters about golf and life, answering questions about their favorite clubs and how far they can hit the ball.

Then it came time to see which player was best at the hula hoop. Webb Simpson made a good effort. So did Daniel Berger, Ollie Schniederjans and Scott Langley.

Then it was Bryson DeChambeau’s turn.

Rather than put the hula hoop around his hips, DeChambeau put it around his neck and spun it until he was dizzy. Then he stuck his hands through the hoop, let it slide down his body and gave a quick hip roll to keep it going.

Of course, DeChambeau found a different way to do it. That’s who he is and what he does.

Just 22 with a U.S. Amateur and NCAA championship on his résumé, DeChambeau is the freshest thing to hit the PGA Tour since Jordan Spieth arrived. He describes himself as part scientist, part artist. Others describe him as potentially the game’s next big star.

DeChambeau, who is making his third professional start Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship, is as confident as he is unconventional.

Want to watch someone fun at Quail Hollow? Sure, there’s Rory McIlory’s bounce and Adam Scott’s technical grace, but check out DeChambeau going about his business underneath the driver’s cap he wears on tournament days, the cap he calls “my cape.”

His golf swing is built on a simple one-plane motion that DeChambeau believes is the most efficient and repeatable way to swing a club, even if it lacks much of the hand action most players use.

His irons are all the same length – about 7-iron length – with precisely designed heads that tap into his understanding of physics and the grips on his clubs are more than double the size of standard grips. Each of his irons has a name more than a number, as in his 60-degree wedge is called the King because Arnold Palmer won the 1960 U.S. Open.

There’s more, but that’s a good primer on DeChambeau, who called the multiple PGA Tour events he played before turning pro his internship.

Here’s how DeChambeau described himself at the RBC Heritage, where he recently made his professional debut:

“I am an artist. I love creating things. And that’s ultimately why I’ve become so scientific is because scientists out there are artists. I can tell you that. Absolute one hundred that is the truth. They go out there and are imagining things people aren’t thinking of. ...

“I’m out there looking at things, imagining things, creating things on my own. And this ‘feel’ everyone talks about is more technically sound and yet when you say proprioception – it’s the connection between your brain and arms – it’s the neuropathways when you train your body to do certain things, to understand where your arms and hands and body are in space in time.”

Sound familiar?

Didn’t think so.

That’s part of DeChambeau’s unique appeal. He looks at the game differently, plays it differently and embraces his individuality.

“His greatest asset is that he’s as much an artist as he is a scientist,” said Mike Schy, DeChambeau’s swing coach since he was 14. “He recognizes that. He recognizes you have to be both to be great at this game. The science part just helps him be more of an artist out here.

“He’s a very smart kid, and he wanted to make his own choices when he was very young. Making those choices and the direction he wanted to go, part of that was you’re going to have to understand that people are going to want to criticize what you’re doing or tell you it doesn’t work.”

It works for DeChambeau. He had a brilliant amateur career and left SMU early when the golf program ran into NCAA trouble (DeChambeau was not involved in any of the violations).

This is DeChambeau’s second sponsor exemption of the seven allowed as he tries to earn enough money and/or FedEx Cup points to make the top 125 at season’s end to earn his full PGA Tour privileges.

He tied for fourth in his pro debut at the RBC Heritage but missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open in his most recent start.

In his final start as an amateur at the Masters, DeChambeau was one stroke off the lead late on Friday afternoon until a triple-bogey at the 18th hole spoiled his day. He dismissed the sudden seven as “an anomaly” and said it wouldn’t happen again.

Asked what it felt like to see his name near the top of the famous white leader boards at Augusta National, DeChambeau sounded unfazed.

“I belong,” he said.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post magazine (www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Charlotte Observer. He can be reached atrongreenjr@gmail.com.

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