Bryson DeChambeau made quite a pro debut in the 48th RBC Heritage.
The young golf scientist who plays with the same length irons throughout his bag, approaches the golf swing and game with a scientific view and has a swagger exemplified by a Hogan-esque hat, tied for fourth in his first professional event.
After tying for 21st in the Masters in his final start as an amateur, DeChambeau shot a 3-under-par 68 Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links to tie for fourth at 5-under 279.
“It’s been quite a journey so far these past couple of weeks,” DeChambeau said. “It’s an honor to be playing out here with these big boys, trying to do my best. Hopefully I can keep competing out here and hopefully I can get a couple of wins out here.”
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DeChambeau is playing to secure membership on the PGA Tour.
He played on a sponsor exemption from tournament organizers. He is allowed a total of seven starts through sponsor exemptions and a total of 12 starts this year unless he can earn temporary membership status, which would grant him unlimited sponsor exemptions and starts.
He needs 361 FedExCup points this season to earn temporary membership, which equals the amount the player who finished 150th in FedExCup points in 2014-15 amassed. DeChambeau earned 123 FedExCup points Sunday with his tie for fourth, and will not need to use a sponsor exemption that was granted to him by the Valero Texas Open this upcoming week because he gets into that tournament automatically based on his top-10 finish.
So he still has six remaining sponsor exemptions remaining. He will not be eligible for the four FedExCup Playoffs events unless he wins a tournament this season to gain full membership.
He earns full membership for the 2016-17 season if he can amass $747,899 in earnings this season, which matches the 125th spot on the 2014-15 money list. DeChambeau, who has played in several pro events as an amateur, earned $259,600 on Sunday.
“It’s not about [tour status],” he said. “I think it’s more about winning championships and doing my best out there each and every shot. If I can accomplish that, that’s all that matters. Whether it gives me my card, great. Whether it doesn’t, great. I’m not worried about that, I’m trying to do the absolute best I can.”
DeChambeau interacted quite a bit throughout the week with throngs of spectators around Harbour Town who considered him one of the event’s main attractions.
“It’s been incredible around here,” DeChambeau said. “What I’m trying to accomplish out there is to make them feel like they’re a part of something cool.”
A better Day
A 3-under-par 68 Sunday allowed Jason Day to leave Harbour Town Golf Links feeling a little more like the world’s top-ranked player than he might have Saturday night.
Day was tied for the lead in the 48th RBC Heritage at 6-under par through two rounds before shooting a 79 – his fourth-worst score on the PGA Tour – that he attributes to a mental lapse likely due to fatigue. Day had talked during the week about being weary after tying for 10th in the Masters.
The 68 moved Day from a tie for 40th after 54 holes to a tie for 23rd.
“It was nice to get a good round under par, especially after [Saturday] and get a break now,” said Day, who is not playing in this upcoming week’s Valero Texas Open. “I had three great rounds and just one really, really poor round that put me out of the tournament. So there’s a lot of positive stuff coming out of this week. I can’t look at the third round yesterday that shot me out of the tournament. … I’ve just got to get back home, just rest my mind, rest my body, and try and get back in the swing of things.”
Day will return to his home in Columbus, Ohio, and has committed to play in next week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but said his schedule isn’t planned out past that.
“I’m just trying to figure out what’s the best schedule for me going forward to make sure that I’m well rested but also coming into a tournament best prepared,” Day said. “Since December 28th I’ve only had 10 days at home, other than that I’ve been on the road. Ten days and what is it, bloody mid-April, that’s not a lot of time at home. … I just need to get some time home and kind of recover and rest up.”
Day said he has lost a good 10 pounds and some muscle mass in recent weeks on the road and will get back into the gym this upcoming week.
“The way my body has been moving through my golf swing, I’m not quite happy with it,” Day said. “I’ve lost a lot of weight and I’ve lost a lot of muscle mass in my body. And it just feels a little too loose. So I’m going to get in the gym and try and tighten everything up there and try to add a little bit more weight next week.”
Most golf fans have seen the horrifying video of Ernie Els six-putting from 3 feet on his first hole of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
After experiencing what has to be categorized as the putting yips, Els quickly rebounded on the greens at Harbour Town. Statistically, Els was the best putter in the field in the final two rounds, when he shot rounds of 73 and 66.
“Well, I finished without a six-putt,” Els said Sunday. “I think I’m okay. I made huge mistakes last week. If you look at my stats I haven’t been that bad on the greens. For some reason … I listened to somebody that I really thought I was going a step forward and it was just too quick, just too much information for me to handle on those greens, and I absolutely made a big disaster.”
In the strokes gained putting statistic, Els had negative numbers in the first two rounds this week but was the best in the field in both the third and fourth rounds with a +5.37 Saturday when he took just 23 putts and +4.60 Sunday when he attempted 26 putts.
Els said he began to become more comfortable with his putter in his final 10 holes at Augusta and that carried over to Heritage week.
“I started putting better and my rhythm was better and the anxiousness was gone,” Els said. “… It’s there, I just have to trust what I’m doing.”
The 5-under 66 Sunday is Els’ best round on the PGA Tour dating back to a 64 in last August’s Quicken Loans National, and his tie for 14th is his best finish in eight PGA Tour tournaments this season.
“I really enjoyed my time out there,” said Els, who couldn’t have said that just a week ago, and probably isn’t done experimenting with his putting.
“Just like anybody else trying to get better,” the four-time major champion said. “I think that’s the love we have for the game. We love to get tortured and we love to play good golf, and today was a day when you feel like, ‘Man, I can play this game’ again.”
Els for Autism
The Heritage, in which Els has participated in 17 times with three top-three finishes, deemed Thursday at the tournament Els for Autism Day.
Els’ son Ben, who has autism, was in Hilton Head Island during the event. Els’ foundation that supports autism has built a school for autistic children in the area of his Jupiter, Fla., home that includes a small golf range and practice facility, and he’d like to host a Special Olympics event at the school.
“It’s been coming along now, and we’ve had some great support from the tour, the media, the spectators and the players,” Els said. “The players have been unbelievable supporting the cause.”