Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — At a critical moment, when the heat really was on, Bryson DeChambeau finally did play like an amateur. He hooked a tee shot deep into a bush, then hit another one in the same wayward direction on the 18th hole, costing him a shot to do something really special at the Masters. And he handled the whole problem like a pro.
“It was fun. Just a nice walk in the park. Unfortunately, it was sour at the end but it is what it is. It is just an anomaly and it won’t happen tomorrow,” he said after making triple-bogey seven on the final hole of the second round on Friday and ruining a chance to be in the final group on the weekend.
So it goes. The 22-year-old shrugged, smiled and basically said he’d get ’em tomorrow, which might or might not be possible. In any case, he did nothing after his round to detract from the great impression he has made in his first two days of the Masters. The kid has moxie and game, in equal portions.
“I’m comfortable. I’m loving it out here,” he said. “It’s a great experience. There’s nothing bad that I can take away from today. I may go bang my head against the wall a couple times. No I’m just kidding.”
He is cut from a different cloth, with a Ben Hogan cap on a head filled with technical ideas. Ben Crenshaw, who enjoyed every minute of a practice round with him Sunday said, “He’s very special. He’s a physics major, so we did not have a lot in common.”
Granted, DeChambeau is not a pure amateur in the mode that Bobby Jones envisioned when he decreed that non-professionals will always have a place in this tournament. Truth is, he cannot wait to turn pro, and will do so on Monday. He kept his status only because he earned entry into the Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion and would have forfeited the invitation had he become professional. He has played in numerous tour events this year.
Then again, even Jones had an appreciation for people making a buck from the game of golf. Jack Nicklaus said the other day that, just after he turned pro, he received a belated note from Jones himself, imploring him to remain an amateur. At the end of it, Jones added, “I’ve had a wonderful relationship with Spalding my whole life…”
Anyway, DeChambeau had an amazing day. After he made birdie on the 15th hole, he was 4 under for the Masters, one shot behind leader and defending champion Jordan Spieth, with whom he was playing.
Joe DeChambeau, the amateur’s father and a semi-retired club pro, rode through the gallery in a motorized cart (having lost the toes on his right foot to diabetes) and heard how the crowd referred to his son. It went from “The Amateur” to “The Kid” to “DeChambeau” to “Bryson DeChambeau.”
“When he got it to 4 under on 15 over there, that was an emotional time. I said, ‘Holy crap my kid is third in the Masters,’ ” Joe said.
But the kid’s polish ran out on 18. Starting the hole at 3 under, one behind Spieth and tied with Rory McIlroy for second, he tried to hit a low-trajectory “stinger” shot to avoid the cool wind. It didn’t work. That first tee shot buried deep in a bush. He hit again from the tee and as the ball flew, he said, “I did it again.” This time he found it, but had to walk through heavy brush, past a wide concession area to the nearest point of relief 50 yards away.
He hit a nice recovery, pitched up, two-putted and kept smiling. “I think he handled it perfectly. He’s a professional in his own mind, even though he’s an amateur. He has grown up with an etiquette for the game,” his dad said.
Will young DeChambeau get back into contention today? Not likely. But that’s golf. He will live with it. And he said he took one undeniable message when he saw his name high on the leaderboards: “I belong.”
Not bad, for an amateur.