Be­hind DeCham­beau’s sci­ence is work ethic

Suc­cess­ful golfer bring­ing a unique ap­proach to the game

The Peterborough Examiner - - Voice of Business - DOUG FER­GU­SON

PARAMUS, N.J. — The de­scrip­tion of Bryson DeCham­beau as a “mad sci­en­tist” is ap­pro­pri­ate, as long as this much is un­der­stood.

The sci­en­tist is al­ways work­ing, al­ways search­ing, rarely sat­is­fied.

DeCham­beau, without ques­tion, is a “dif­fer­ent kind of cat.” Those were his words last week af­ter he shot a ca­reer-low 63 to take a four-shot lead into the fi­nal round, and then missed only two greens and never let any­one closer than two shots at The North­ern Trust golf tour­na­ment.

It was his third PGA Tour vic­tory in a lit­tle more than a year, mov­ing him to No. 12 in the world and, for the mo­ment, No. 1 in the FedExCup.

He does love his sci­ence. DeCham­beau talks more about biome­chan­ics than birdies and bo­geys.

When he with­drew af­ter the first round of the Valspar Cham­pi­onship in March with an in­jury, he de­scribed it the fol­low­ing week as in­flam­ma­tion of his QL. Per­haps notic­ing some blank looks, or re­al­iz­ing not every­one speaks the same lan­guage, DeCham­beau ex­plained.

“It was be­cause my quadra­tus lum­bo­rum wasn’t work­ing,” he said. “My il­li­a­cus, longis­simus tho­racis — they were all kind of over­work­ing, if you want to get tech­ni­cal on that. But they weren’t work­ing very well and I over­worked them.”

More blank stares.

“Pretty much my lower right back was hurt­ing and I rested it,” he said. “How about that?”

So this sci­en­tist also has a sense of hu­mour.

DeCham­beau is the NCAA and U.S. am­a­teur cham­pion who uses sin­gle-length shafts —

37½ inches, or roughly the length of a 7-iron — in all his clubs. He be­lieves it could be rev­o­lu­tion­ary in golf, and he might be right. He also be­lieves there is more than one way to skin a cat, even a dif­fer­ent kind of cat.

Be­neath it all is a 24-year-old Cal­i­for­nian with a re­lent­less work ethic. That’s what makes him tick.

Video cap­tured him so frus­trated on the range at the Bri­tish Open that at one point he crouched and put both hands over his face. That doesn’t make him dif­fer­ent. It makes him a golfer.

He had an­other long range ses­sion on the eve of The North­ern Trust. And he worked as long as light would al­low Satur­day af­ter a 63.

“It’s half of what I do in my off weeks,” DeCham­beau said. “Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how hard I work to try to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of my biome­chan­ics. I’ve never re­ally been su­per tal­ented. Peo­ple would dis­agree with that, but I’ve al­ways had to work twice as hard as every­body grow­ing up. I was never as good as a ju­nior. Right around 14, 15, I started work­ing re­ally hard and that’s what changed my game.”

A physics ma­jor at SMU, he was asked if he was an A stu­dent in high school.

Yes. But he had to work for it. “I wasn’t great at read­ing and writ­ing,” DeCham­beau said. “But I cer­tainly worked my butt off to be an A stu­dent. And I’ll never for­get the first time I got a B in high school. I was mor­ti­fied be­cause I had worked so hard, and I just wasn’t good enough in writ­ing . ... That’s been me my whole life. I’ve had to grind and work it out and fig­ure it out on my own.”

Read­ing. Writ­ing. No­tice he didn’t men­tion arith­metic.

He smiled. “Well, that’s a given, I think,” he said. “I do like num­bers. I’m more of a the­o­ret­i­cal guy than a data an­a­lyt­ics guy. For what­ever rea­son, God has blessed me to see things in just a unique and dif­fer­ent way in re­gards to spa­tial aware­ness, if you want to say that.”

No one fol­lowed up on spa­tial aware­ness.

DeCham­beau has found a prac­tice round part­ner in Tiger Woods, or maybe it was the other way around. They both use the same brand of ball, and Woods al­ways has been in­trigued by a dif­fer­ent way of play­ing golf.

Dur­ing those rounds, Woods has picked up on the essence of DeCham­beau.

“We all know he’s ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent,” Woods said. “But his heart, he gives it every­thing he has and is al­ways try­ing to get bet­ter.”

It was one year ago when DeCham­beau de­vel­oped a se­vere cal­lus on the top of his fin­ger, an odd place for it. He at­trib­uted it to hav­ing over­sized grips, the way he holds the club and, of course, long hours.

That’s when it was jok­ingly sug­gested that he not prac­tice so much.

“Come on. You kid­ding me?” he said. “Ev­ery day that you don’t spend prac­tic­ing is an­other day some­body is get­ting bet­ter. That was a quote I took from Ho­gan.”

Ben Ho­gan never talked much about spa­tial aware­ness, stan­dard de­vi­a­tion and pro­pri­o­cep­tion.

But he knew hard work. Ho­gan might have liked this guy.

GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO

Bryson DeCham­beau, a “dif­fer­ent kind of cat,” won the The North­ern Trust on Sun­day for his third PGA Tour vic­tory in a lit­tle more than a year.

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