Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau has gained notoriety for his scientific approach to the game. Some of his unorthodox methods include dipping his golf balls in Epsom salts to determine proper balance, using the same shaft length (37½ inches) for all his irons and gripping the club in his palms rather than his fingers.
But the 21-year-old from Clovis, Calif., also has a creative side as well. Call it Albert Einstein meshing with Rembrandt.
So this weekend’s Walker Cup Match on the iconic links of Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club might be the perfect canvas for the Southern Methodist University senior. DeChambeau can apply both science and art for the USA Team, which is looking to retain the Cup following a 17-9 victory two years ago at National Golf Links of America.
“I like this type of golf,” he said. “I enjoy the artistry of it.”
Succeeding in links golf requires both creativity and the kind of calculating strategy a physics major like DeChambeau embraces. Balls bounce much harder on the firm turf, and determining the amount of roll can be a challenge.
Since arriving on-site Monday with his fellow nine team members, DeChambeau has had time to develop a blueprint and see how the wind affects shots.
“To me, that’s just a technicality issue,” said DeChambeau, one of four players to win the NCAA championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year. “I’ll go out there and measure how much [the ball] needs to bounce for each required iron and for the wind direction as well. So there are multiple variables to it.”
Nobody knows exactly how the weather will play out for the two-day competition. Four years ago when the USA was beaten at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland, wind played a major role in the loss. In fact, the USA has only one victory on foreign soil in the biennial competition since 1995 when future PGA Tour winners Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel, Kyle Stanley and Webb Simpson posted a one-point victory at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.
Experience certainly helps when it comes to links golf, and the one USA player who has it is Oklahoma State senior Jordan Niebrugge. He tied for sixth in The Open Championship at St. Andrews in July with the lowest score by an amateur (11-under 277) in the event’s 144-year history, while earning a place in the field through final qualifying at nearby Hillside Golf Club, one of two venues the USA Team played last weekend before coming to Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
“It’s just being comfortable with the shot you’re going to hit,” said the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion. “You can hit any number of shots out here. I hit it a lot higher than a lot of these guys. Some guys are able to hit it low [and] run it around the place. There’s different ways you can play the golf course.”
Miller is giving his players plenty of leeway in how they want to prepare. Late Thursday afternoon, most of the USA Team had retired to the hotel, but DeChambeau was still on the practice range working different shots with his driver. Playing college golf in Texas, DeChambeau encounters frequently encounters breezy conditions, and in last month’s U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, winds gusted as high as 25 mph a couple of days.
He also qualified for the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, a links-style venue south of Tacoma, Wash., where firm and fast conditions greeted the competitors.
“I think I’ve adjusted quite nicely to it,” said DeChambeau of the wind. “It’s not too much different from Chambers [Bay].
“We talk here and there about playability factors on the golf course and how you can play certain shots. But we’re all individualists and we all play our own games and we’re all really good. So no matter the situation, we’re all going to excel. And that’s why we’re the 10 best players in America right now, and we’re over here playing [to retain] the Walker Cup.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.