Bryson DeChambeau retains compelling edge in rollercoaster ride at The Open

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Bryson DeChambeau on the third hole on Saturday (Getty Images)
Bryson DeChambeau on the third hole on Saturday (Getty Images)

The pursuit of a drive as straight as an arrow can be filled with agony and despair, but Bryson DeChambeau remains a compelling watch while tying himself in knots during the process. With intimidating power to undress any golf course, the American covered each corner of St Andrews while surging up the leaderboard early on Saturday afternoon at The Open, eventually stumbling in an exhilarating five-under-par round of 67 to sit six-under-par.

There was alarming concern at the scarcely-believable snap-hook from DeChambeau on 18, threatening the crowd aligning the first hole 125 yards away down the left. But this fascinating contradiction of a player sprinted towards the green and back to his ball, recalculating his route before adding the finesse missing moments earlier, looping a wedge to within three feet for a tap-in birdie.

DeChambeau remains a divisive figure in the game, particularly with his recent defection to LIV Golf, but he continues to emphasise the bizarre and crazy nature of this sport. There is a strong lure to experience that jolting sound that reverberates around the course after finding the middle of the club. And it came on the 14th, chasing the ball down the hardened, sun-baked fairways for 338 yards.

But DeChambeau is not only tackling a formidable field, with Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland setting a searing pace throughout the third round of the 150th Open Championship. He continues to resist pressure from the baying mob that surrounds him on each tee box to pull out his driver. “We’re playing a major here, folks,” a sheepish DeChambeau muttered with a smirk in disbelief at the light-hearted boos on 16 following his long-iron selection.

“Look, I’m trying to win a major, so I’m trying to play where I can have the best opportunity to make birdie,” DeChambeau remarked. “But It’s fun. I know I’m going to get booed.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“I have no problem with that whatsoever. If anything, it’s good banter.”

The theatre at the start of each hole involves DeChambeau thriving as the villain, too, controlling his surroundings, including a sharp whistle to manoeuvre a marshall out of the way of a potential stray bullet on 15. Part of the intrigue is the mishit as much as when the 28-year-old bludgeons the ball straight down the middle though.

When Plan A unravels, there is intense focus and deep discussion surrounding the imaginative strategy to escape the traps found when his ball deserts him, adding another layer of intrigue to the DeChambeau experience.

But there is art to compliment his brutal, scientific approach, too, as documented when hitting a skinny pitching wedge “​​off the toe” to escape the road on the 17th with par. It was a shot to reveal the imaginative side deep within, founded during his teenage years at Belmont Country Club in Fresno, California.

“I was trying to have some loft but still bounce it into the bank,” DeChambeau recalled. “Hopefully hit it in a good spot where it doesn’t hit dead and doesn’t hit a hot spot either. Hit perfectly. Bounced up and rolled over beautifully.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

DeChambeau’s admirable work ethic has been on full display around St Andrews this week; never hard to find, there have been lengthy sessions on the range and putting greens from dusk until dawn, with various toys and gadgets scattered around him to paint a picture of his game. These arduous days show a desire to remove an infuriating inconsistency to his game, which was amplified by a smooth eagle on nine and the lethargic four-putt double-bogey from 100 feet on 16, displaying the fragility of his game alongside his crushing brawn.

But as DeChambeau nears full fitness, “probably 97 to 98 percent right now” after a nasty hand injury forced him out of the PGA Championship earlier this year, he showed his commitment to his philosophy, revealing speed training will resume next month.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A return of the tour de force that threatened to shake the game in 2018 will bring added appeal to the disruptive LIV Golf and next year’s majors. “That [2018] was by far the best golf I ever played,” he recalls. “I feel like I’m getting back to that position with this new speed, which is great.”

So while major contention is still tantalisingly close, fans will gleefully savour this flawed genius determined to be different.

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