For a golfer who’s been a pro for less than a year, and has yet to win on the PGA Tour, Bryson DeChambeau has had an outsized presence in the world of golf.
While DeChambeau, the 2015 US Amateur and NCAA Individual champion, did finish top-5 in his first event as a pro, so far the Physics major from SMU is perhaps better known as the “Mad Scientist” of golf than he is for his Tour play.
Consider his clubs: All of DeChambeau’s irons and wedges use the same length shaft, 37.5 inches, the shaft length of a standard 7-iron, his favorite club. In addition, the clubs’ lie and bounce angles match each other so only the lofts and clubface size are different through his set.
Or consider his full swing: DeChambeau is a disciple of Homer Kelly’s book The Golfing Machine when it comes to hitting the golf ball. DeChambeau doesn’t turn his wrists during the backswing or through swing, and he attempts to keep the club on the same plane throughout the entire golf swing.
Or consider his fashion sense: DeChambeau, virtually alone on the PGA Tour, sports a Ben Hogan-style cap in all his tournament rounds and often gives away each day’s hat to a lucky fan after finishing 18.
Or, finally, consider his putting stroke: DeChambeau has changed his putting stance so that he now stands side-saddle to the ball, both eyes facing the golf hole. He’s also changed his grip to a modified claw-style approach that he uses on both short and long-range putts.
How’s it working so far?
PGA Tour statistics for his 12 measured rounds in the 2017 season show DeChambeau ranks 145th overall in putting. He switched to the side-saddle method at the Franklin Templeton Shootout so only his last four events were with the new putting method.
His finishes in those tournaments? Tied for 11th in the Shootout, tied for 49th in Hawaii, and then missed cuts both out in the desert and in San Diego. He didn’t play in Phoenix.
A closer look at the putting statistics shows he’s doing well from in-close: DeChambeau hasn’t missed from inside four feet in over 150 putts this year. However, when he’s four to eight feet away, he holes just over 60 percent of his attempts and is ranked 169th. From 10 to 15 feet he’s making just under one-third of his tries and is ranked 127th, though the sample size is still relatively small (39 attempts).
Golf analyst Mark Crossfield did a short technical analysis of the side-saddle stroke and pronounced it sound, though he said any player switching to that method would require a lot of practice to get comfortable. “I feel I could totally get used to this,” Crossfield says at one point of the video as he lines up a long putt. “I do like the fact that I’m looking down the line at the hole.”
Speaking on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, Gary Williams said DeChambeau told him the same thing. “He said to me, ‘when I’m looking at the hole with both eyes, I see the entire circumference of the hole and it makes the hole look larger.’”
“He said to me, ‘when I’m looking at the hole with both eyes, I see the entire circumference of the hole and it makes the hole look larger.’”
While DeChambeau is the only PGA pro to use the side-saddle stroke now, it was first popularized by Hall of Famer Sam Snead who, in the 1960s, began experimenting with a croquet-style stroke where he straddled the ball with one leg on each side. That technique was banned in 1968 by the USGA which caused Snead to switch to a side-saddle stroke similar to the one that DeChambeau is using now.
The USGA also ruled against DeChambeau last month; not against his odd stroke, but against the center-shafted putter he was using, ruling it illegal and forcing the rookie pro to revert to a standard heel-shafted blade.
Whether or not DeChambeau will stay with the side-saddle putting method or if other pros will join him using it will depend on how the stroke performs on Tour over the next few events. One thing we can expect though, with DeChambeau, if it’s not the putter stroke, the cap, the uniform-length clubs, or his on-plane swing, he’ll find some other way to tweak golf’s traditional establishment.