September 19, 2018
Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America
Bryson DeChambeau begins his practice session at East Lake Golf Club. No other preparation is as meticulous and thought-provoking as DeChambeau’s. He has not just one but two launch monitors. A few feet away, there is a brown box of new golf balls, ready to be spanked and chased. But most idiosyncratic of all, DeChambeau and his camp are spraying the golf balls with water before he drives them. You would think it would be to simulate the morning dew that often arises when golfers play in the morning. But Professor DeChambeau offered an alternative, eloquent response.
“It’s more of a simulation of moisture,” explains DeChambeau. “I didn’t control the ball two weeks ago and Aronimink was very wet. So we’re trying to figure out what is happening in those situations.’
While it may seem unconventional to some, this is completely normal in DeChambeau’s world. And the golf world needs to take notes and embrace this. Before, DeChambeau’s preparation was labeled as “strange,” “out there,” as he wasn’t generating victories. With his tremendous success this year that has seen him win The Memorial and the first two legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, maybe there is a method to the scientist’s uncommon preparations.
“I was a good junior golfer but I always felt like I wasn’t the best growing up. So I consistently try to find a little edge on the competition in other ways. I’d always think outside the box to make my golf swing easier and simpler. It’s starting to pay off more as we’ve started to understand the conditions at hand.”
DeChambeau Credits Ball Striking for Accolade-Filled Year
A large part of DeChambeau’s success in the tournaments he has won has been his stellar ball striking. His “book,” filled with an amalgamation of numbers and formulas, appear convoluted to an outsider. But to Professor DeChambeau, it’s the ingredients for success on the golf course. At the Northern Trust Open, DeChambeau finished top 10 in strokes-gained putting, off the tee and tee to green. He wins that tournament by four strokes. In his winning performance at the Dell Technologies Championship, he had a 86 percent driving accuracy and percent 78 percent greens in regulation, demonstrating his ball striking firing on all cylinders when he wins.
The over-emphasis on the variables of golf is what drives and excites DeChambeau. This week, at a challenging course like East Lake, his driving and ball striking will need to be at their best. Many of the holes at East Lake are incredibly narrow, requiring ball placement in the fairway. If you miss the fairway in one of the bunkers or in the deep rough, it becomes a contest of who can use their wedge the best to get balls up and down for pars. As DeChambeau explains, this is something you don’t want to keep doing time and time again during a round.
“East Lake is a ball striker’s golf course for sure,” exclaims DeChambeau. “If you can get past that and execute shots to the standards that I know I can I’m going to have a very good week.”
Rose, Finau, Thomas Chasing DeChambeau
While DeChambeau is the clear favourite to win this week at the TOUR Championship, there are plenty of players looking to spoil his party. Justin Rose, fresh off claiming the number-one player in the world spot, is second in the FedEx Cup standings behind DeChambeau. After losing in a tight playoff at the BMW Championship to Keegan Bradley, the Englishman believes he is playing some of his best golf leading up to East Lake.
“To win the FedEx Cup, it’s about being in the right spot to win this week,” says Rose. “The last couple weeks, I have done a great job of keeping me in that position. I want to enjoy playing my first event as World No. 1, but I also kind of understand that really nothing should change. The challenge is to stay there by playing consistently great golf.”
While DeChambeau and Rose have risen to the top of the FedEx Cup standings with victories, Tony Finau has demonstrated tremendous consistency throughout this season. It’s astonishing that Finau is in this position after injuring his ankle back at The Masters in April. Not many pundits believed that the young American could bounce back after a devastating injury. But it highlights Finau’s ability to conquer adversity and never give up. With 11 top-10 finishes and a newly added acquisition to the American Ryder Cup team as a captain’s pick, Finau is ready to be competitive for the FedEx Cup.
“I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and the rest will take care of itself, and then I feel like the wins will come,” states Finau. “I know that I’m trending in the right direction and I have the confidence to battle back within rounds when I’m down. I’ve been extremely proud of my ability to bounce back this year to a high level that got me in a position to win the FedEx Cup and on Team USA for the Ryder Cup.”
Justin Thomas is looking to make history this week. Ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, a win at the TOUR Championship would mean that Thomas is the first to win back to back FedEx Cups. Despite no major championship victories, the American is proud of his consistent play throughout the season to get him to this position.
“It’s been a really consistent year,” says Thomas. “As a whole, I feel like I’ve gotten better as a player this year. I don’t have as many wins, but I’ve improved in every category of my game, which is huge.”
The Tiger Factor
And then there is Tiger Woods, searching for that elusive win. He has had close finishes this year, from the PGA Championship to the BMW two weeks ago in Philadelphia. While his chances to win the FedEx Cup are slim, he is optimistic that his game is in the perfect place to make a run for the TOUR Championship. A year ago, he was at home, thinking he may have never hit another golf ball again. Now he is competing at East Lake and on the Ryder Cup team. A stunning achievement for the Big Cat where there was a time that success on a golf course was far from his mind.
“I didn’t think I’d ever play again,” says Woods. “When I was laying on the ground and couldn’t move for a number of months, golf was the furthest thing from my mind. And to have gone through that and have gotten to this point, it’s been fun.”
Woods has won the TOUR Championship two times in his career. Because of injuries, Tiger hasn’t been able to compete in a tournament that he very much enjoys. And he is quick to remind those golf experts about the need to qualify for this event, earning your way to the season-ending TOUR Championship.
“What I’ve missed most about playing this event is that in order to get into this tournament, I would have earned my way here in being part of the top 30 most consistent players of the year and the best players of the year. No exemptions into this event. Either you get here or you don’t. It’s a very hard line.”
This remark can be applied to Bryson DeChambeau, who sits alone on top of the FedEx Cup Standings. He’s worked his way to gain fans’ respect and admiration, despite his quirks. He has done that through tournament wins and putting together solid performances in the events he has played. He will be difficult to beat this week and as Tiger points out, there is no player who works as hard as the Scientist.
“I’ve gotten to know Bryson very well, and what an amazing talent, and an unbelievably hard worker,” says Woods. “He has figured out a way to play this game his own way and he’s not afraid to think outside the box on how he can become better.”
Get ready for a show at East Lake.