PARAMUS, N.J. — Unlike his irons and wedges, which are all the same length, Bryson DeChambeau is one of a kind. His hat and driving-range work ethic are like Ben Hogan’s, his mindset is like your average physics professor’s.
“I’m a different cat,” he said. He proved that by pulling well ahead of an all-star field at the Northern Trust, shooting 8-under-par 63 and heading to the final round with a four-stroke lead—something he never has held before. “I’m excited because this is a new challenge for me and I always like challenges.”
DeChambeau, a 24-year-old with an NCAA title, U.S. Amateur championship and two PGA Tour victory on his resume, would like to add a triumph in the FedEx Cup playoff opener and the likely Ryder Cup spot that would follow. Headed toward the last round at 16 under, he promised to be fully prepared, as he always has been for everything.
He certainly was ready for Ridgewood Country Club Saturday, making nine birdies, including four of the five holes after his lone bogey. Despite the extremely low scores shot by DeChambeau and Keegan Bradley, the former St. John’s star who surged into second place with a course-record-tying 62, Ridgewood was no pushover.
Second-round co-leader Brooks Koepka (the two-time 2018 major winner) and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson each shot 1 over. Jamie Lovemark, who shared first place with Koepka on Friday, was 2 over. It took a different kind of golfer to separate himself from the deep pack.
“People don’t realize how hard I work to try and get a better understanding of my biomechanics,” said DeChambeau, a physics major at SMU. “I’ve never really been super talented. I always had to work twice as hard as everybody growing up. I was never as good as a junior, at least when I was 12, 13. Right around 14, 15, I started working really hard and that’s what kind of changed my game.”
He does not just play golf, he studies it and ponders it. Aside from his flat cap [unlike the baseball-style hats that just about all golf pros wear], what people notice about him first is the irons he uses and the stances he employs to accommodate them.
Traditionally, 4- and 5-irons have longer shafts than 9-iron and wedges do. But DeChambeau’s research and trial and error told him it is preferable for each of those clubs to be 37.5 inches long. Pro-am partners and junior clinic students always want to talk about that with him and sometimes they even want to emulate him.
“If it makes sense to them and they want to try it, usually when they do try it they are like, `Oh my gosh, this makes a lot of sense and I’m playing a lot better with them,’ ” h e said. “From a physics perspective it makes a lot of sense and from a biomechanics perspective it makes a lot of sense. We’ve gotten the clubs to work and they work for anybody in any swing in any way.”
That said, he did acknowledge that the key for him this week has been the way he has putted. He made 84 feet, 11 inches worth of putts Saturday, including one of 17 feet, 5 inches for birdie on No. 18—after which he said, “As of right now, I’m a man on a mission.”
DeChambeau said that in answer to a question about his quest for one of Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. He has been focused for years on being part of that team. So much so that in 2016, only months after he turned pro, he went on his own to Minnesota so he could watch the matches as a fan.
“I wanted to get an experience, a little bit of an experience of what it would feel like and what it would be like,” he said, noting that he had played for American teams in amateur Walker Cup and Palmer Cup competitions.
“This,” he said, “is a little different, obviously.”