Fascinating circumstances surround DeChambeau's Masters run

DeChambeau: I didn't have any expectations (1:12)

22-year-old amateur Bryson DeChambeau (tied for eighth) talks about his performance at his very first appearance at The Masters. (1:12)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There is an outside chance Bryson DeChambeau actually has no idea what he's talking about when he waxes on and gets philosophical about the physics of the golf swing.

He might, in fact, be making up half his quirky theories on the fly, just for fun. It's clear he likes messing with people, and loves feeling as if he's the smartest person in every room, and on every driving range. There are already plenty of people in golf who can't resist rolling their eyes whenever he starts talking.

But guess what? None of that matters. Whatever you think of DeChambeau's personality -- and his eccentric, oddball theories -- it's clear the dude can flat out play. He is an amateur in name only. Through two days of the Masters, DeChambeau has been as fun to watch as anyone in the field. And on a blustery Friday, for 17 holes, he could legitimately say he was playing better golf, at that moment, than anyone in the world.

In the same group as defending champ Jordan Spieth, DeChambeau made six birdies, and he stood on the 18th tee at 3 under par with a real chance to shoot 69, a score that would have been the lowest of the day by two shots. All he needed was a par.

What unfolded on 18 was a tad bizarre and a little surreal. DeChambeau pulled his drive into the trees on the left, and the ball dropped down into a holly bush, forcing him to take a penalty for an unplayable lie. He walked back to the tee, hit another drive hard left, and it too clattered around in the trees, but this one ended up near the concession stand. A rules official informed DeChambeau he was entitled to relief on the other side of the building if he wanted it, even though no one -- including Nick Faldo, who said as much on the ESPN broadcast -- could ever remember a player hitting a shot from that part of the course.

DeChambeau, who insisted afterward that nerves played no role in the mess he made of 18, took his free drop on that side and, standing in a crow of slack-jawed patrons, launched a 3-wood up near the green. He couldn't get up and down and finished with a seven, a disappointing end to an otherwise incredible day. But it was fascinating to watch as it was unfolding, like a lot of DeChambeau's game.

"Everybody is going to go back to 18 [and say] oh, he was nervous, he was nervous," Dechambeau said. "No, I hit two pulled drives. I don't like the left to right wind on that hole. Subconsciously, I came a little bit over the top and had a closed clubface. It was only two degrees closed. That's what does it."

Even with that triple-bogey, DeChambeau shot 72 and sits at even par in a tie for eighth place. No amateur has ever won the Masters, but if you judge by the way he talks, the way he putts and the way he struts around the course like they'd better have his jacket size handy, DeChambeau believes he's going to be the first.

He's like Phil Mickelson crossed with Matthew McConaughey and dressed in Ben Hogan's cap. His whole gimmick is already starting to rub some people the wrong way, but I'm enjoying every minute of the ride so far. DeChambeau is a lot of things, but boring isn't one of them.

"I controlled my ball beautifully," DeChambeau said. "I was doing that all day. It was a nice walk in the park. "

DeChambeau obviously has tons of game. He's one of only five men to win the NCAA individual title and U.S. Amateur in the same year, joining Jack Nicklaus, Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore. Since the 22-year-old withdrew from Southern Methodist University seven months ago, he already has proven he's capable of playing at the highest level. He finished second in the Australian Masters, he shot a 64 to lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour, and he shot 66 in the final round of Arnold Palmer Invitational when paired with Rory McIlroy.

"I said to him on that last green [at Bay Hill], 'If you keep playing like this, I'll be seeing a lot more of you,' " McIlroy said. "His game is very well suited for not just [Augusta National] but professional golf, and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's still quite young, but he's very mature and very smart."

But for all DeChambeau's accomplishments, up to this point, he has received far more attention for his iconoclastic theories. He has been both a fun curiosity and a feature writer's dream every time he enters a tournament. A physics major at SMU, DeChambeau says he believes much of what we think we know about the golf swing is actually counterproductive. All his irons are the same length, which allows him to maintain the same posture on every shot. (He also has names for them -- Gama, Juniper, Alpha, King, Azalea -- instead of numbers.) He has very little wrist hinge in his backswing, and a quiet lower body. Most of it is based on theories detailed in The Golfing Machine, a book written by a former Boeing engineer named Homer Kelley.

"If you can beautifully mesh the art and science of it to enhance your game, there's no downside to it," DeChambeau said.

It can be fascinating to hear DeChambeau talk about what he believes -- and he believes it with genuine conviction -- but even his friends were initially skeptical.

"Honestly, I didn't think it would work very well," Justin Thomas said. "But then again, no one has ever done it before so I didn't know what to expect. He's a hell of a player. He's really, really good. Watching what he was doing out there today, it was just stupid good golf. Just stupid."

DeChambeau's approach flies in the face of the idea that too many thoughts swirling around inside your head can only hurt your swing. He's happy to talk about how he has different swing speeds for different situations, and he tries to approach every hole like an equation that can be solved with the proper sequencing. Even he concedes he gets a bit carried away sometimes.

"It drove me to madness a couple years ago, but I realized golf isn't the ultimate thing in my life," DeChambeau said.

Occasionally, he'll say stuff that is bound to annoy, or at the very least, raise a few eyebrows. DeChambeau did just that Friday when he said he wanted to have the kind of impact on the game as some of the all-time greats.

"It's as much as me playing golf as it is growing the game," DeChambeau said. "If I can do that, that's ultimately what I want to try and do, just like Arnold Palmer did and Jack Nicklaus."

It's hard to argue, though, with the results so far. At the end of his Masters news conference Friday, the green jacket moderator -- who clearly had Spieth on the brain -- accidentally referred to him as "Jordan" instead of "Bryson." DeChambeau couldn't resist ribbing him a little.

"Jordan?" DeChambeau said. "Am I Jordan?"

You're not at that level yet, man. But give it some time. Maybe.