Bryson DeChambeau has been one of the most talked about golfers in the world this year.
He might be even more of a topic next year.
This week, he’ll stroll the fairways of Hillcrest Country Club — unorthodox set of irons in his bag, PGA Tour future in the back of his mind and a willingness to share his unique view of golf with those who ask.
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Even though he jokes he needs a tape recorder to repeat the answers to the oft-asked questions.
“It’s been a lot of fun explaining to people what I do and the uniqueness I bring to the game,” he said Wednesday, on the eve of the first round of the Albertsons Boise Open. “The game of golf will benefit from it down the road. ... As professionals, we are there to actually grow the game, I believe, and it’s disappointing to hear some people say otherwise.”
DeChambeau, turning 23 on Friday, won the opening stop of the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals last week in Ohio to clinch a spot on the PGA Tour for next season. The rookie from SMU also burst onto the scene by contending into Saturday as an amateur at the Masters and tying for 15th at the U.S. Open earlier this season.
Last year, he became the fifth player to win the NCAA championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year. The others? Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore.
But no matter how much success he has, his story always will revolve around a decision he made as a high school junior to play with a set of irons that are all the same length — an idea that had been tried before, but not successfully.
The one-length irons allow him to use the same setup and swing plane for every iron shot. Traditional iron sets feature incrementally longer shafts from the wedges up to the long irons. His grip and swing are unconventional, too.
“I thought that there was going to be an easier way to play the game,” he said. “I’ve always believed that. Even today, there probably still is an easier way to play the game than the way I’m doing it.”
Veteran PGA Tour players have expressed appreciation for DeChambeau’s commitment to his own style. Confidence is one of the essential ingredients to success as a pro golfer.
“He’s a very mature guy and he’s engrossed in believing what he’s doing is right, and I love that,” PGA Tour star Adam Scott told Golf Digest for an article titled, “The Zealot.”
At first, DeChambeau’s decision to play with one-length irons was not popular — not even with his parents. Many college coaches lost interest in him, he said.
“Everybody except my golf coach,” tried to stop him, he said. “My dad tried to talk me out of it. My mom tried to talk me out of it. Everybody. But I knew it was right for me after I saw it the first time, after we built our set. It took us over 20 hours.”
His irons are 37.5 inches long, roughly a 6- or 7-iron length. Each club weighs the same, too, but the heads are designed to create varying distances.
The first time he tried his custom clubs, he swung an 8-iron from 160 yards and it dropped right where it should.
He took a 5-iron from 200 yards and, despite the club being the same length, the ball hit its mark.
“I said, ‘This could change the game,’ ” he said.
There remains much debate about whether that will happen. But we’ll know soon.
DeChambeau signed an equipment deal with Cobra, which crafted a new set for him that he began playing this summer. A mass-production version of that set will go on sale to the public next year, he said.
“It’s going to be called the Cobra One-Length,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to help out the game a lot.”
DeChambeau still tries traditional irons once in a while. His driver, 3-wood and driving iron are of varying lengths, too.
“It’s a lot more difficult to hit a a variable-length set than it is to hit a one-length set,” he said.
His ascent has been stunning and swift. The physics major said he increased his focus on golf over school to a 90/10 split as a junior, when he rolled to his two national championships.
He finished in the top 30 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tied for 21st at the Masters in his last two tour events as an amateur, then tied for fourth at the RBC Heritage in his pro debut. After four straight missed cuts, he played the weekend at the Memorial and tied for 15th in the U.S. Open. It was possible for him to earn a PGA Tour card for next season based on his earnings as a non-member this season but he came up short of the required threshold.
That sent him to the Web.com Tour Finals, where he won in a playoff on Sunday. It was his first career start on the Web.com Tour.
“That was a huge relief on my end,” he said.
Through his spring slump, he faced some doubts about his play — just as he did early in his college career. A few months later, he’s ranked 109th in the world.
“I questioned my set. I questioned how I was playing. I questioned how I was swinging,” he said. “At every stage, it’s been that way. Ultimately, it comes out to be: ‘No, dude, you’re doing it right. Just keep doing it.’ ”
Albertsons Boise Open
Where: Hillcrest Country Club, Boise
Thursday: 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday: 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.; leaders tee off at approximately 11:30 a.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m.; leaders tee off at approximately 11:30 a.m. (awards ceremony after 4 p.m.)
Who: Top 75 players on the Web.com Tour, Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour and select other golfers
Purse: $1 million ($180,000 for winner)
TV: The Golf Channel
Tickets: $15 daily grounds, $25 weekly grounds ($35 at the gate), $50 weekly clubhouse ($70 at the gate). Youths 17 and younger get in free with a ticketed adult. Purchase, or get more info, at albertsonsboiseopen .com/tickets-info.
Parking: Free shuttle from the airport economy lot at Victory and Orchard.
Free post-golf concerts at the course: Pilot Error (Friday) and Lounge on Fire (Saturday).