Last year, the Californian became only the fifth player to win the
top two amateur titles in the United States in the same season, his
victories especially remarkable because he uses a set of irons
fitted with shafts of identical length.
Those clubs, which McIlroy admitted to sneakily trying out in Abu
Dhabi, are heathen to traditionalists and doubts remains as to
whether DeChambeau can join the game's professional elite with such
a bag selection.
The physics student's mixed performance on the European Tour's
so-called 'Desert Swing', the final leg of which starts in Dubai on
Thursday, may have bolstered the argument for his detractors.
Two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, the 22-year-old shot a first-round
eight-under 64, two clear of four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and
four better than world number one Spieth in just his seventh
appearance at a professional tournament and first on the regular
DeChambeau's second-round 72 earned him a spot in the leading trio
that included McIlroy.
Such exalted company proved too much and a third-round 78 created a
puzzle for his scientific mind, although equipment choice did not
seem to be part of his post-tournament analysis.
"It's great to look back and go 'why did something change'?"
"It was too much adrenaline, too much going for me. I was 10 under
through 20 holes. I know I can do it.
"The issue is how do you control the different situations that
amount when the pressure is on, when you're playing with the best
Dressed on that third day in beige slacks, matching flat-cap and
suede shoes, and shorn of the usual sponsor logos that adorn
professional golfers' attire, DeChambeau's upright, aristocratic
walk added to the impression of a player from a bygone age, even if
his approach is cutting-edge.
"I'm an analyst, I like analyzing things, I love understanding
numbers and figuring things out," DeChambeau said in a video that
garnered more than 290,000 views within hours of being posted on
He has been labeled the most interesting man in golf.
"I just like being different and if people say that I'm that, then I
guess it's cool," DeChambeau added.
As well as their length, his irons have identical shaft and lie
angles, and were developed after studying Homer Kelley's cult 1969
manual "The Golfing Machine". The only variation is in the loft,
enabling him to hit different distances.
"It helps me keep my same posture, same setup, same everything,"
Equipment makers remain dubious.
"If manufacturers thought this would be beneficial it's highly
likely they would have done it by now because production would be
easier," golf club fitter Mark Woodward said.
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DeChambeau, who likened his pioneering traits to those of George
Washington and Albert Einstein, seems content to deepen his golfing
"Every day it's a learning process. I'm a golfing scientist, so I
don't take it with any emotion," said DeChambeau, whose struggles
continued in Qatar, where he made the cut by one stroke and limped
home 17 adrift of winner Branden Grace.
"Regarding the past two weeks, it's been fun. Learned a lot. Messed
up a couple times but that's how it goes as an intern," he said.
His iconoclastic approach includes dunking golf balls in salted
water to check for imperfections and also something called "vector
"I'm able to read greens at a faster, better level than most," he
said. "From a strategic standpoint I can't give you all my secrets,
but it's based on shot dispersion."
DeChambeau, who halted his studies at Southern Methodist University
after its golf team was suspended due to rules violations involving
a former coach, has temporarily forsaken the game's riches to remain
He cannot receive money from tournaments, equipment manufacturers or
agents and was coy as to whether his club maker would try to market
"I can't say too much about that yet," he said. "There is some work
we're doing to try and figure out a fitting system."
There will be no shortage of sponsors seeking his endorsement when
he does join the paid ranks after his U.S. Masters debut in April.
In January, he signed with The Legacy Agency, which represents
several U.S. golfers including Patrick Reed and Jim Furyk.
"I have been in a major championship but I haven't played with the
likes of Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth in the heat of battle and
that's where this is great preparation for the Masters," he added.
"This time last year, I was kind of a nobody and to be honest I
still think of myself as that. I try to be as humble as possible."
(Reporting by Matt Smith)
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