For awhile Friday it was a duel between two Dallas golfers as SMU star Bryson DeChambeau challenged Jordan Spieth for the lead before falling back late in the second round of the Masters, according to the Golf Channel. Adversity struck DeChambeau, though, and he dropped back to an even par 72, tied for eighth with several other golfers. But at the end of the day it was Spieth overcoming unpredictable winds to hold a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy heading into Saturday’s third round.
Who is DeChambeau and why is he even here?
DeChambeau, 22, is the U.S. Amateur champion and appeared on the verge of taking the lead from Dallas native Spieth, when he recorded a triple bogey on the 18th to fall four strokes back., according to the New York Post. DeChambeau might be defending his U.S. Amateur championship except for the fact his Ponies were placed on probation, leaving him the opportunity to enter the Masters. That’s right. That’s not a misprint. A college golf team is on probation. Who ever heard of that before? But that’s a story for another day. The NCAA operates in mysterious ways and appears to have it in for SMU dating all the way back to the day when they assessed the Death Penalty to the university for alleged football recruiting violations.
As a result of SMU’s golf probation, DeChambeau is in the midst of the battle for history at Augusta National Golf Course today (Saturday), as he is still only four strokes behind Spieth who is playing for his second consecutive Masters championship. The former SMU star still had his confidence following that difficult 18th hole as he said, “I’m only four shots back. I’ve been playing some great golf out here. I could be leading this tournament. Unfortunately, 18 happened, but again it’s golf.”
DeChambeau’s remarkable challenge for the lead began unraveling when he pulled his first tee-shot far to the left into a holly bush, where officials decided it was unplayable. His second tee shot sailed left again and landed near a concession booth. He then decided to drop the ball about 40 yards away from and connected on his fourth shot. He found the hole after three more shots and dropped four strokes back of the champion, instead of only one.
At one point the former SMU star was four under after recording birdies at 11, 12 and 15 to reach four under par before three-putting the 16th for bogey and experiencing the adversity he did on 18. His playing partner Spieth complimented DeChambeau, saying, “He was just one swing away from being in the final group on Saturday…….He was one swing from being tied for second or first. Look for him on the weekend to be a contender.”
While DeChambeau certainly is a contender for his first Masters championship, it was Rory McIlroy who made the big move Friday to move within one stroke of Spieth, who has now led six consecutive rounds at the Masters. McIlroy will be paired with Spieth today (Saturday) as two of the top players in the world battle it out for the coveted championship. Spieth has finished second and first in his first two Masters tournaments while McIlroy has yet to taste Masters glory.
DeChambeau sports a Ben Hogan style flat cap and refers to himself as a quick thinker. He lists Albert Einstein as one of his idols. The NCAA Men’s golfing champion and USGA Amateur champion was a physics major at Southern Methodist University. He has used his science background to create a unique set of golf clubs which have already caused a sensation on the tour. He uses a set of irons fitted with shafts of identical length of 37.5 inches. Each club weighs exactly 278 grams, according to the New York Daily News. The revolutionary science-based clubs are heresy to golf purists. DeChambeau’s theory is that by having his irons all the same length, he can use the same swing with all his clubs. Even McIlroy has admitted to trying them out in Abu Dhabi, according to the London Daily Mail.
Spieth and McIlroy will begin their third round today (Saturday) as the final pairing. McIlroy appears to have momentum on his side as he birdied three of the last six holes to complete his second round and dramatically close the gap to Spieth. He is now three under par and only a stroke behind the Dallas native who began playing golf at Brookhollow Country Club in Big D.
Spieth survived four bogeys and a double bogey Friday to retain his lead with a clutch 14-foot par put on the final green. Although he once led by five strokes Friday, that final dramatic putt on the 18th shows why he’s the defending champion. He started Friday strong with birdies on two of his first three holes. However, gusting winds got only stronger during the afternoon and may have prevented Spieth from wrapping up his second straight title.
At one point Spieth was warned he was playing too slowly as he and caddy Michael Geller discussed strategy in the face of the ever-changing winds. Being “put on the clock” by officials means a player can be penalized strokes which is the last thing Spieth needs as he defends his title. Whether or not Masters officials would actually assess such a penalty against a player of the stature of Spieth seems unlikely.
DeChambeau will tee off today’s third round at 1 p.m. CDT while Spieth and McIlroy will tee off at 1:50 p.m. The dramatic pairing of the two golfing titans today could easily be part of a Hollywood script as they face each other down like two Western gunslingers. Each player will be able to watch his rival’s every shot. CBS officials are anticipating record breaking ratings for the historic match which they will be fortunate to broadcast in only a few hours.
Spieth appears to have icewater in his veins while McIlroy appears angry by the fact he has yet to wear the green jacket, emblematic of Masters supremacy. It was the native of North Ireland who was favored to win this tournament a year ago when the American shocked the world by winning it at age 21. This could well be a riveting showdown reminiscent of the day when Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus fought it out on this same course for titles.