AUGUSTA, Ga. – On Tuesday, 22-year-old Bryson DeChambeau got a master-class in Augusta National from three-time champion Phil Mickelson during a practice round.
Mickelson and the youngster got to talking about the science of an uphill putt versus a downhill putt. Dustin Johnson admitted if he hung around Mickelson and DeChambeau any more, he wouldn’t be able to break 100.
But that’s DeChambeau’s approach to golf, and life.
He’s part Einstein and he’s part Picasso, saying if you can "beautifully mesh the art and science of (golf) to enhance your game, there’s no downside to it."
He doesn’t care much about the crowd around him – even though he’s played with Jordan Spieth, the leader by one, for two days.
"There’s a lot more fans for Spieth, I know that. But at the same time, it’s not that big a deal," he explains.
Friday at Augusta National, the youngster wasn’t just in contention for the Low Amateur title, but he was nipping at the heels of Spieth and Rory McIlroy for the lead most of the day.
He had only three bogeys on his card Friday, which were offset by six birdies. He did, however, make a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 18th, which dropped him from a tie for second to a tie for eighth.
On a day when the wind was causing havoc on the world’s best, his even-par round was tied for second best for the day.
"Only four shots back," he tersely explains of his updated spot on the leaderboard.
As the sun crept through the tallest of Georgia pines, his final tee shot of the day went left, and into the holly bushes (appropriately enough, the hole is called ‘Holly’) and his second went just as far offline. He dropped, pounded a fairway wood just short of the green, and finally cleaned up his mess.
"My club was just two degrees closed, that’s what did it," he precisely says.
That mistake aside, he is the talk of the tournament. Take DeChambeau’s clubs, for example.
All of his irons are the same length, 37.5 inches, and they all have names. His 6-iron is named ‘Juniper,’ the sixth hole at Augusta National. His 5-iron is his favourite par five on the course, ‘Azalea.’
The way he swings those clubs is also a fascinating throwback.
His one-plane swing has been compared to that of Moe Norman, the quirky Canadian who, throughout his amateur career, was long known for his swing – and his ability to hit the ball incredibly (and consistently) straight.
"Moe Norman set up with his club shaft and right arm in line with one another, as does DeChambeau," says noted author and Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Lorne Rubenstein, who literally wrote the book on Norman in 2012. "Their right arms are extensions of the shafts, without an angle between the arm and the shaft. This one-plane swing leads to accuracy and precision, and a straight ball flight."
There’s no shortage of interest in DeChambeau in Canada, either.
Golf Canada sources say if the DeChambeau camp asks for an exemption into the RBC Canadian Open this summer, he will be strongly considered.
And Brian Decker, the media official for Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, says having DeChambeau play a few times on that tour would be thrilling to watch.
"We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of his peers from amateur and collegiate golf choose to play the Mackenzie Tour, and it would be exciting to see him compete against them as they make the first step on the path to the PGA Tour," he explains.
His playing competitors have also taken early notice of the youngster.
"He’s not scared of the moment, and it doesn’t matter what the moment is," says Spieth.
"His game is very well suited for not just this golf course, but professional golf, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders," continues McIlroy.
But before his professional career gets started (he turns pro next week and will be in the RBC Heritage field on the PGA Tour), he still has a job to do here at Augusta National.
DeChambeau admits his ultimate goal is to grow the game of golf like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and winning the Masters would be a good start.
"If I come out here and play as good golf as I have, I know I could do it," he says. "If I play well this weekend, I will. If I don’t, I don’t. But, it’ll be a cool journey."
Mike Weir missed the cut after shooting rounds of 76 and 78. He has now missed the cut five out of the last six times at Augusta… The lone bright spot of Weir’s day: he hit a pitch out of the water on the par-5 13th to two feet and made birdie. He wrecked his wedge in the process… Other notables to miss the cut include: Rickie Fowler, Charl Schwartzel (2011 champion), Graham McDowell, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson… Ernie Els four-putted the first hole (an improvement from his six-putt Thursday) and made double-bogey… Tom Watson finished his final round in a major for his career Friday afternoon… This is Spieth’s sixth-straight round at Augusta National with the lead, which ties Arnold Palmer for the longest all-time streak…