Sports Patience, pitching and big drives put DeChambeau in position
Even without hostile NY crowds, this US Open is tough enough
It’s rare when fans wind up rooting for the golf course, even one as majestic as Winged Foot, but suddenly that’s a viable option. Maybe because the two players atop the leaderboard heading into Round 3 at the U.S. Open are not exactly — how to put this? — the most likeable guys in the game. Patrick Reed, who leads at 4-under 136, has been hounded by cheating allegations since college. They spilled out in public last December after he was slapped with a two-stroke penalty for intentionally (Reed denied that part) improving his lie in a waste bunker at the World Hero Challenge.
Bryson DeChambeau held off on shakes and steaks to work on pitches and patience.
All that work from the night before made him look like a genius come Friday.
With the wind kicking up and the temperature dropping at Winged Foot, DeChambeau was one of the very few to conquer the U.S. Open-like conditions that finally showed up for the second round. He shot 2-under 68 to reach the halfway point at 3-under 137, one of only five players in red numbers with the afternoon starters about halfway through their rounds.
The Latest: DeChambeau moves into the lead at US Open
MAMARONECK, N.Y. — The Latest from the final round of the U.S. Open, golf’s second major of the year (all times EDT): ___ 3:05 p.m. Bryson DeChambeau has moved into the lead at the U.S. Open. DeChambeau birdied the fourth hole and is one of only two players under par for the day as the winds picked up at Winged Foot. Overnight leader Matthew Wolff was 2 over, picking up his second bogey on No. 5 to drop into second place at 3 under. Louis Oosthuizen is even for the day and remains third at 1 under. Justin Thomas is the only other golfer in the red, at 1 under. The leaders are through six holes. ___ 1:35 p.m. It was an ugly start to the final round for Rory McIlroy and Harris English.
As much as his eagle to end the day on the par-5 ninth, the keys to DeChambeau's success came late Thursday, when he closed down the driving range — waiting until near sunset so he could practice his wedges while the temperature was about the same as what was expected for Friday.
“I waited so I could hit balls almost in the dark," he said. “I got good numbers with my wedges and I felt comfortable today.”
And he redoubled his efforts on what might be the single-most important skill at a U.S. Open: staying patient.
“For me, it's been a lot of breathing,” he said. “I know I’ve talked about it before, but just keep breathing and try and let the advantages play themselves out."
DeChambeau's advantages — his painstakingly analytical mind combined with the extra 40 pounds of muscle he's packed on this year thanks to steaks, baked potatoes, protein shakes and weightlifting — have freed him up to look at attacking a place like Winged Foot, with the 5-inch-high rough and narrow fairways, in a different manner than most.
Wolff hurt by bad breaks, mistakes and DeChambeau at US Open
Matthew Wolff stood over the closest thing he'd find to an easy shot at Winged Foot: 103 yards away from the pin on a flat lie in the fairway. The 21-year-old basher, who gouged his way out of the rough all week at the U.S. Open, blocked the wedge into the deep grass to the right of the 11th green. A possible birdie attempt to stay within two ended up as a par to fall behind by three. It got worse from there. The player Wolff was chasing, Bryson DeChambeau, didn't make those kind of mistakes. After carrying a two-shot lead into Sunday, Wolff shot 5-over 75. He finished at even-par 280 and lost to DeChambeau by six shots.
He has basically thrown out the long-held U.S. Open blueprint of hitting less club off the tee in service of keeping the ball down the middle, trading it for a strategy of hitting driver as far as he possibly can, then gouging out from the rough from short range when necessary.
“Phil gave me some great advice,” DeChambeau said of Phil Mickelson. “He said when he almost won back in 2006, he said he had the best short game week of his life. So that’s just a testament to showing that you have to have a great wedge game out here.”
With an average driving distance of 332 yards, wedges were all DeChambeau needed for much of the day. Hitting seven of 14 fairways — and 14 of 28 through two days — has made his task that much easier. According to the analytics, he gained 3.84 strokes off the tee to lead the field — nearly 0.3 shots clear of Rory McIlroy, who was in second in that stat.
DeChambeau opened the tournament on Thursday with a 384-yard drive down the middle. On Friday, he closed with a 380-yard monster on the par-5 ninth. He turned one of the few birdie opportunities at Winged Foot into something better — hitting 9-iron to 6 feet to set up eagle and ensure he'd be in one of the final groups come Saturday.
Rory baffled by Bryson's winning tactics: Hard to 'wrap my head around it'
When Rory McIlroy showed up at Winged Foot Golf Club earlier this week, he did not envision the winner taking a bomb-and-gouge approach like the one Bryson DeChambeau used. "No chance. No chance," McIlroy said, describing his thoughts on the eventual winner hitting just four of his final 21 fairways. "I don't really know what to say because that's just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does." In total, DeChambeau hit"No chance. No chance," McIlroy said, describing his thoughts on the eventual winner hitting just four of his final 21 fairways. "I don't really know what to say because that's just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does.
But being on the fairway wasn't the only way he got it done. His most impressive scramble came on the par-4 16th, where he hacked a wedge from the rough, then made a 40-foot putt from the short grass in front of the green to make a birdie.
He finished with five birdies, five bogeys and the eagle that put him in the red for the round.
As he heads into the weekend, two good rounds from winning his first major, he's posing the same question to the U.S. Open as he is to the PGA Tour: Can one player use power and statistics to impose his will on the game?
“That’s a question for God,” DeChambeau said. “I don’t know if you can -- I mean, Tiger has been able to do something like that many times before, so I think there is something. But human scientific research does not say that there’s anything about that.”
More AP golf: apnews.com/tag/apf-Golf
Eddie Pells, The Associated Press
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