Bryson DeChambeau said he got back to work the Monday after his U.S. Open win last month at Winged Foot Golf Club. It showed in his first round back at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Thursday where he shot a 62 to lead by one stroke over five golfers, including Patrick Cantlay. The 62 is the lowest first round of his PGA Tour career.
It’s fitting that somebody who took about four hours to bask in his first major championship win would back that win up with a 62, and for a while it looked like it might be something better than that. DeChambeau — who apparently shot 59 in a practice round on Wednesday — launched absolute bombs all over TPC Summerlin and went out in 30 on the back nine, which is where he started his first round.
He got into a spot of trouble on the second hole on the course (his 11th on the day) when he had to hit a provisional off the tee, but he was able to save par and keep his bogey-free round going. Two birdies in his last three holes touched off another special day for somebody who has (improbably?) become the biggest story in the sport over the last few months.
DeChambeau, playing alongside two mega-long drivers in Cameron Champ and Matthew Wolff, averaged 352 yards off the tee and took a few of the laugh-out-loud lines with his driver that he said he was going to take earlier in the week when he said he was going to try and drive four of the par 4s on this course.
He didn’t drive them all, but his average approach shot on Thursday was 185 yards, which is barely more than a wedge for him and led to 16-of-18 greens hit in regulation.
Obviously you can’t score unless you hit a lot of putts, though, and DeChambeau hit a lot of putts in Round 1. He may have gained nearly three strokes on the field off the tee, but he gained nearly that many with his putter, which is very quietly the key to all of his recent success.
“I didn’t hit it great today, but I still played really, really good, and I’m excited for that,” DeChambeau said. “Just trying to hit it straighter. I don’t feel like it’s super stable through impact and that’s what I’m always trying to work on, to get more, be more repeatable out there on the course.”
He added that he “heel thinned” a lot of shots off the tee, despite still leading the field in strokes gained in that category. Maybe the most telling stat of all is that the Big Golfer had five (five!) eagle putts during his round. When you’re putting for eagle five times in a round, it’s going to be pretty difficult to not take it deep. Despite not making a single one of the putts, DeChambeau still scared 60.
Where do we go from here? DeChambeau said he’s going to try and straighten it out and swing it even harder on Friday in Round 2. He’s a past champion here — pre-weight gain and body transformation — so it would be surprising if he wasn’t in it until the very end this week.
It should not be surprising that the best driver of the golf ball in the world is contending at events like this, and yet I find myself amazed that DeChambeau has been able to combine that length with a touch around the greens and with his wedges and putter that is nearly equally world-class. That, more than anything, will lead to DeChambeau contending for PGA Tour wins.
“… what I will say is I’m playing well and I feel like I have my golf swing under control and putting well, making a lot of putts, I feel like I can shoot low on a lot of golf courses and usually that wins tournaments,” DeChambeau said.
We’re about to find out if it wins two in a row.