Bryson DeChambeau has so many quirks, you probably forgot about most of them. You may have forgotten he’s the only PGA Tour player whose irons are all the same length. You may not remember he once putted side-saddle. You may have gotten so used to his Ben Hogan-style cap that it doesn’t look that weird anymore.
DeChambeau, in his current form, is best known for two things — his prodigious power and his penchant for petulance. He decided in 2019 that he needed more power, so he gained 40 pounds and was the longest driver on Tour in 2020. He’s ridden that distance to three victories in the last 14 months, including a six-shot win at last year’s U.S. Open.
Along the way, though, he’s had run-ins with cameramen and rules officials, gotten dumped by his caddie and become a target for hecklers as his feud with Brooks Koepka overtook the golfing twittersphere. He hasn’t spoken to reporters since his controversial comments about not receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
But on Friday, Aug. 27, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., it was roar after roar after roar as DeChambeau blitzed the course en route to a 12-under 60 in the second round of the BMW Championship. He leads Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm by one stroke at 16-under for the tournament, although Rahm has three holes to complete in the morning.
It’s no secret that Caves Valley has surrendered plenty of birdies to these 69 upper-crust touring pros. The course played 2.78 under par in Thursday’s opening round and 2.19 under in this round (which featured a near two-hour weather delay and was ultimately suspended due to darkness). But nobody shot lower than 64 Thursday and Cantlay’s 63 was still three strokes shy of DeChambeau’s run. It was a tour de force.
The run started early. Caves’ first five holes include two par-5s and two short par-4s; they play nearly two strokes under par by themselves. DeChambeau played them in 5-under — birdie, birdie, par, eagle, birdie — and added birdies at Nos. 7 and 8 for good measure. The run continued at the 11th, 12th and 14th, and then his approach at the par-5 16th hung up in the back fringe before careening down to the hole for a tap-in eagle. Suddenly, he was 12-under on his round and needed just one birdie for a 59.
DeChambeau gave himself a look at the par-3 17th, but his 15-footer slid past the hole on the left side. On No. 18, by far the course’s toughest hole this week, he piped his drive 333 yards down the middle of the fairway. His 144-yard wedge shot landed on the back of the green and spun back past the hole as the roars swelled. DeChambeau was 6 feet, 3 inches away from golf’s magic number, but misread the putt and missed it left.
“It was an awesome opportunity,” DeChambeau told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands after the round (he didn’t speak to the assembled writers after doing TV interviews). “I had a couple shots, a couple birdie opportunities at 17 and 18, and it didn’t happen, but [I’m] still really proud of the way I handled myself, and it’s great to feel some pressure again, which is awesome.”
As the years have passed and more players have become able to overpower more courses, these rounds are becoming a much more regular thing. Cameron Smith shot a 60 last week. Scottie Scheffler shot a 59 in last year’s playoffs. Six of the 12 sub-60 rounds in Tour history have come since 2016 and nine have been shot since 2010. But that didn’t dampen the anticipation on the course Friday, nor did it soften the groans as his putt rolled wide on the last.
DeChambeau, in particular, is breathtaking when he’s on his game. The power is such that even a serviceable week in the finesse aspects can be enough to contend; when he has his touch, he can bring a course to its knees. Playing competitors Jordan Spieth and Harris English both raved about DeChambeau’s performance, and the Baltimore crowd rallied behind him.
“I played with Bryson the first two rounds when he won at Bay Hill, and when he’s driving it that straight, it’s got to be what it was like in the early 2000s with Tiger just hitting it the furthest and the straightest,” Spieth said. “It’s a little easier from there, but you’ve still got to get it in the hole, and he just drove the ball well, made a few longer putts today, and had it going.”
It’s certainly possible that the lasting memory of DeChambeau at Caves Valley is of something going wrong on the course or of some extracurricular behavior or comment. But those who watched him put on a clinic Friday won’t soon forget it.
THREE FRIDAY THINGS
1. After all that, DeChambeau still isn’t the betting favorite this weekend. That would be Rahm, the No. 1 player in the world playing legendary golf on autopilot. Rahm shot 8-under 64 in the first round to share the lead with Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy, and he’s right on track for a similar score in this round, as he’s 7-under through 15 holes.
If you’re into betting odds, Rahm is at +139, DeChambeau +250 and Cantlay +400, with Sungjae Im a distant fourth at 25-1. DataGolf, meanwhile, gives Rahm a 36.7 percent chance to win the tournament, with DeChambeau at 33.4 percent and Cantlay at 17.2 percent. That’s 87.3 percent between the trio and 12.7 percent for the rest of the field.
2. Cantlay doesn’t have the power of DeChambeau or Rahm, but his well-rounded game can keep him in the mix at any course. This week, his putter is as hot as it’s ever been. Cantlay gained 6.04 strokes putting Thursday, the sixth-best figure in any round this season, and followed that up with 5.11 in the second round. He’s made nearly 294 feet of putts in two rounds (Tour average is 146) and is 10-of-14 between 10 and 20 feet (71.4% with the Tour average at 25.6%).
Generally, putting hot streaks aren’t as sustainable as world-class ball striking, and Cantlay is negative in strokes gained tee-to-green this week. He’ll likely need to correct course in that department to remain in the hunt all weekend.
3. Burns and McIlroy certainly haven’t played themselves out of the tournament, but both would have liked to follow their Thursday 64s in better fashion. McIlroy’s 70 was below the field average and Burns is just 3-under in his second round with one hole to play. Behind the three leaders, Im and Sergio Garcia share fourth place at 12-under. Burns is tied for sixth with Hudson Swafford at 11-under, while McIlroy and Abraham Ancer share eighth at 10-under.
The second round will resume at 8:30 a.m. ET, with the third round slated to begin at 10:40. Golfers will play in threesomes off split tees Saturday, with the lead group teeing off at 12:50 p.m. in the Baltimore suburbs.
Photo Credit: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR