Mental gymnastics for DeChambeau at Pinehurst

Mark McGowan

Bryson DeChambeau on day one at Pinehurst (Logan Whitton/USGA)

Mark McGowan

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Bryson DeChambeau was very much in the hunt for being story of the afternoon at Pinehurst as the 2020 U.S. Open champion continued on from his stellar play at Valhalla and was neck and neck with Rory McIlroy, albeit playing on different sides of the golf course.

Four birdies over his opening 14 holes – including a two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth where he found the green with a long iron from over 240 yards in the waste area – saw him just a shot behind early leader Patrick Cantlay, but he’d finally record a bogey on the par-4 seventh to slip back to -3, but battled his way through the final two holes to end the day just two behind Cantlay and McIlroy, who’d joined Cantlay with a birdie at the last.

“I would say from a mental exhaustion perspective, this was probably the most difficult that I’ve had in a long, long, long time,” he said afterwards. “I can’t remember the last time I mentally exerted myself that hard to focus on hitting fatter parts of the green instead of going for flags. I did that quite nicely until the last few holes.

“I got to keep my energy up there. Eat a lot. Get a lot of carbs and food in me, good protein, just recover tonight. I got to get up early and go back at it in the morning. Recovery is going to be key. I’m going to go hit a couple balls, make sure it’s all dialed in and ready for tomorrow.”

The bogey on seven partly spoiled what was an otherwise excellent round and he feels that it was part brought on by his own mindset at the time.

“That was my goal on 7 fairway,” he said about keeping a bogey off the card. “I was actually thinking about it, unfortunately. Usually when you start thinking about it, you make whatever you’re thinking about happen.

“Unfortunately didn’t get it up and down from the backside, kind of made a mental error, just pushed it a little bit, didn’t swing it my best.

“But for the most part everything felt pretty solid. I was in a decent amount of control with my game. My putting felt solid. Really trying to control the speed.

“Those greens, oh, my gosh, they can get away from you, especially on 9. I had that 40-footer straight down the hill. If you hit it two feet past the hole, that thing is back up the green chipping up 40 yards.

“It’s really diabolical out there. It was a testament to the patience I had, G-Bo [Gregory Bodine, Bryson’s caddie] helped provide me. I was very pleased to get it in that 3-under and hopefully some softer conditions can help tomorrow. We’ll see where that leads.

“But I’m certainly excited for the next few days.”

The highlight of the day came on 18 – his ninth – when he chipped in for birdie to rapturous applause, similar to day three at Valhalla.

“Chipping on 18, huh? Keep the streak going,” he joked when asked if he was making a habit of it in majors. “I was very fortunate to get that one in the hole. I was trying to get it up there close and it happened to drop. Three feet out I was like, oh, that might be short. Luckily it trickled out and went in.

“So I’ll take that. In front of the gallery, it’s always fun to excite them.”

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