AUGUSTA, Ga. — Top pros believe that U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau surely will make a name for himself on tour. First, though, DeChambeau has made names for his clubs. All of his irons have little monikers, most of them Masters-themed.
Take his 60-degree wedge, for instance. “So, 1960, who won the Masters?” the 22-year-old said, rhetorically, realizing that his audience at a news conference knew it was Arnold Palmer, “The King.”
“So, ‘King’ is on that wedge,” he said, adding that his 55-degree wedge is Ward for Harvey Ward, the low amateur at Augusta in 1955 and his 50-degree wedge is Jimmy, in honor of 1950 Masters champion Jimmy Demaret. “Kind of funny when you ask (the caddie), ‘Hey, give me the Jimmy.’”
The 6-iron is Juniper, the name for the sixth hole at Augusta National (which has nicknames for the holes).
The thing is, what really makes his irons special is the fact they all are the same length. It is a revolutionary concept, at odds with the tradition that has made the higher lofted clubs, such as wedges, shorter than lower-lofted clubs, such as the 3-iron. DeChambeau loves the history of the game, especially the part that is rooted right here, but he mostly likes to think his approach is totally from the future.
“I believe I’ve gotten here for a reason and that reason is because I believe in what I do,” said the young man who will make his Masters debut Thursday in a group including defending champion Jordan Spieth and will turn professional next week.
He insists that his system will be a godsend for golfers with bad backs. “The issue comes because you’re changing positions every single time you go to a different club. Barely, but enough to make a difference,” he said. “If you can build a set, a length around what’s most efficient for your body, I think it could be very beneficial to the player at hand.”
The concept will catch on, he insisted, if he plays well as a tour rookie. Having left SMU because of athletic sanctions against the school, he has been playing in pro events, but maintained his amateur status so that he could play in the Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion.
He calls this “a special week.” He has made an intense study of Bobby Jones, the lifelong amateur whose vision helped create Augusta National and the Masters. Yes, he is aware that most of Jones’ irons were the same length.
DeChambeau on Monday enjoyed his first night in the Crow’s Nest, the perch high in the clubhouse that houses amateurs during the Masters. And he got a huge charge out of a practice round yesterday with Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.
“Great player, good guy. He’s going to have a very long career out here,” said Bradley, who did not have the nerve to swing one of the kid’s unorthodox irons. "I picked up a sand wedge and I don’t think I could make contact with it. But I think it’s a very interesting idea, it’s cool.
“He reminds me a lot of Phil. He’s got a lot of unique ways of looking at the game.”
Not surprisingly, Mickelson said of DeChambeau: “I really like him.” Also not surprisingly, the conversation during their match turned technical between the three-time Masters champion and the amateur.
“Bryson and I were talking about some of the science of an uphill putt and a downhill putt and the break and so forth,” Mickelson said. “He was using some pretty scientific terms and Dustin kind of shook his head and said, ‘If I hang around you guys much longer, I’ll never break 100.’ ”