It's not unusual for an amateur to make the cut at the Masters, so in that sense, Bryson DeChambeau is very normal. That may, however, be the only normal thing about his golf game. DeChambeau, who will turn pro after the tournament, has the most unique approach to golf of any player in the Masters field.
There has been a standard for golf clubs for decades, especially at the highest level. DeChambeau is on his way to changing that. While there are plenty of quirks to DeChambeau's game -- he wants to eventually employ a side saddle putting technique and floats his golf balls in water and Epsom salt to find perfect ones -- the biggest oddity is his swing.
If you walk into any sporting goods store and buy a set of golf irons, you'll get a set built like the set every pro uses. The longer irons have longer shafts and the clubs get shorter as they get more lofted. That requires golfers to swing along different planes depending on the length of the club. That is not how DeChambeau plays. Instead he employs a single-plane swing on his irons. DeChambeau, a physics major at SMU, built his unique swing after reading the book The Golfing Machine, which offers some alternative swing insight.
To make it work, DeChambeau has the most anomalous set of irons in golf. They are all the same length -- roughly the same as a 7-iron -- with the same weight, shaft and lie angle. That allows DeChambeau to execute the same single-plane swing. It wasn't an easy process getting there as DeChambeau's father talked about in a terrific feature by Alan Shipnuck.
DeChambeau put the sticks in play for his senior year, complicating the college recruiting process. "A lot of coaches were scared away," says Jon. "Cal and Stanford had been very interested, and they just disappeared." Dad could relate to the coaches' apprehension: "I tried to be extremely supportive of everything Bryson was doing, but there were times I was completely disturbed, where I felt there's no way this is gonna work, that he's screwing up his opportunities."
DeChambeau and his coach first modified some clubs on their own. Eventually TaylorMade made him a set. Things went to another level when DeChambeau worked with Dave Edel of Edel Golf. Edel designed DeChambeau a unique set that fit his single-plane swing perfectly. He used the Edel set while winning both the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Amateur championship -- a feat only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ryan Moore have accomplished.
The former SMU star is really an amateur in name only. He stayed an Am to keep his exemption for the Masters, and since SMU golf was sanctioned by the NCAA, he's done nothing but focus on this tournament. He said this week he played 11 practice rounds before it even officially became "Masters Week." He played around the world in pro events on both the Euro and PGA Tours to get more reps at the highest level. He knows the course, using all sorts of scientific and mathematical terms to map and describe every shot he might face. And he's got the natural talent to pull it off and compete with the best in the game.
DeChambeau has since switched to a Cobra set of woods and wedges and will be signing a multi-million dollar deal with Cobra-Puma for his clubs and apparel after turning pro -- the worst-kept secret in golf, confirmed by Golf Channel's Todd Lewis on Saturday morning. No matter what brand of clubs DeChambeau plays, you won't see any traditional markings on them. DeChambeau's clubs feature the loft of the club, not the number. So a 46-degree pitching wedge is stamped with 46 instead of the standard PW. Oh, and he named them all. Like "King," "Jackie" and "Juniper."
DeChambeau is still an amateur and has yet to establish himself on the PGA Tour, but that doesn't mean he's lacking confidence. He isn't just hoping his unique approach to the game will work, he knows it will. The Masters is just his second major championship appearance and the first time he's made the cut. That did not stop him from predicting a victory.
Oh, and that confidence goes well beyond just this week. He told Golf Digest he is sure he will become the No. 1 player in the world one day. A lot of amateurs find success at that level, but struggle mightily to make it at the pro level. They end up grinding through mini tours before maybe putting it all together on the PGA Tour. Some never find great pro success. DeChambeau expects to be different and he expects to do it playing a way not seen since Bobby Jones.
There are a lot of unique things in the way DeChambeau approaches the game. They may be revolutionary things one day. For now, they just add up to make the most unique player in golf.