04/21/2016

Prior to starting his professional career, Bryson DeChambeau walked the fine line between gimmick and genius phenom. The 2015 US Amateur winner views golf in a unique way. He studied the sport’s ancient text like a monk reading scripture. DeChambeau developed theories based off his education. In order to maintain his swing plane, every iron in his bag would be of the same length.

He’s also a physics enthusiast, a throwback dresser and a Ben Hogan apostle.

The background made DeChambeau a must-watch participant at the Masters and the 22-year-old didn’t disappoint. He hovered in contention before fading on Sunday. He still won low amateur honors and promptly turned pro.

This past weekend, DeChambeau once again was in the spotlight. And once again, he delivered. At the RBC Heritage, DeChambeau fired 5-under to finish four shots behind winner Brendan Grace. A final round 68 placed DeChambeau in fourth.

It also started chatter about another label for the young man who treats his clubs like Ted Williams treated his bats: US Ryder Cup participant.

The thinking is this: DeChambeau, even without playing professionally last year, was one the United States best up-and-comers. In the addition to the US Am, DeChambeau won the individual title at the NCAA Championships.

In other words, the peculiarities of his character shouldn’t distract from his talent. He has a lot of it.

Moreover, DeChambeau offers not only a wide variety of shots, but also a level of gamesmanship that’s been missing from the Americans’ efforts. His press conferences alone are enough to give lesser-minded folks, and that’s most of us, headaches. When DeChambeau starts talking about angles, vectors and velocities, he sets himself apart.

No one is like that. And the Europeans know it. They can only ignore him for so long before the curiosity gets the best of them.

Then there’s DeChambeau’s game. At the RBC he hit driver off the deck to reach a par-five in two. Imagine a scenario where the SMU product finds himself 30 to 40 yards short of his opponent on a 600-yard hole. DeChambeau pulls out the big stick fires his trademark cut to give himself a shot at eagle. What does his opponent do?

More or less, DeChambeau is both different and talented. He represents hope, or rather intrigue, for a side that hasn’t won the Ryder Cup in eight years.

But there are few things holding his selection back.

For one, DeChambeau isn’t yet eligible to earn Ryder Cup points. If he makes the team, it will most likely be as one of Davis Love III’s captain’s picks. Which would be a bit of a gamble for a man seeking redemption. The top-nine of the US team is all but set. Jordan Spieth leads the way (almost doubling second place Dustin Johnson) while JB Holmes, at the eighth and final qualifying spot, is the lone surprise player if there is one. From there, matchplay maestro Patrick Reed, Presidents Cup veteran Bill Haas and the long hitting Brooks Koepka round out the top-10.

Who among that group would DeChambeau replace? It’s likely the captain’s pick pull will provide plenty of options. Matt Kuchar is outside automatic qualification as are Jimmy Walker, Kevin Na, Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel and the much-maligned Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.

Love needs to win. He doesn’t need to create buzz or sell tickets. DeChambeau will have to play his way onto the team just like anyone else. It’s unfortunate he can’t apprentice at the Presidents Cup the same way Spieth did in 2013, but he probably doesn’t mind.

DeChambeau has been well worth the price of admission thus far. Ryder Cup intrigue only adds to yet another exciting young player.