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The Players Championship: Bryson DeChambeau ‘box office’ and a contender again at TPC Sawgrass

Bryson DeChambeau moved to world No 6 with victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday; US Open champion one of pre-tournament favourites for The Players at TPC Sawgrass – watch live on Sky Sports The Players

Paul McGinley

Paul McGinley reflects on an impressive victory for Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and looks at whether he can follow it up with another win at The Players this week.

It’s easy to dismiss DeChambeau as a bit of a freak show but he’s far from it. There is so much more to him than just being a big-hitter and his ability to perform strongly under pressure is becoming clear.

He was one of the top players in the putting stats on Sunday. No matter how good you play or how long you hit the ball holing putts and short game under the pressure cauldron of a final round Sunday is what you need to do to win.

There were some big and key moments from DeChambeau last week on the greens. He found two great putts on 17 and 18 to hold off Lee Westwood – who played those holes very well under the circumstances and considering the difficulty of both holes – so Bryson was a deserved champion at Bay Hill.

I really think DeChambeau is box office and I absolutely loved what he did at the sixth in Saturday’s third round. It’s great for fans to see personality coming through and to see Bryson raise his arms in the air in spontaneous celebration at pulling off the shot before it even landed was great sporting TV.

As much as I don’t like the fact that power has become so important in the professional game, what I enjoyed about that sixth hole is that it was about hitting the ball straight as well as with such power. We’ve seen him hit drives that length before, but not when the penalty risk is so huge.

If you don’t carry the water there, then you’re re-teeing it. It’s okay being brave over the dogleg, but that was basically an out-of-bounds he was teeing over and to do it – under the pressure of competition – over the weekend was very impressive.

DeChambeau’s ball speed went up 10 miles per hour for that shot from the speed he would normally swing at, so he’s able to turn on the afterburners when he needs to and still make good contact. That’s a difficult thing to do. Anybody who plays golf knows that in trying to swing the club faster it often makes us lose the correct connection.

This guy is on a big learning curve and is driven by a seemingly insatiable passion for what he’s doing. He seems to be on a mission to find out everything he can about the game and apply it. He loves learning, testing out new ideas and is intrigued by the science and physics components of the swing.

He has not just studied the golf swing and putting stroke in incredible depth and detail but also fitness conditioning, diet and the science of controlling nerves through heart rate under pressure by correct breathing. He says of himself that he is not really that smart, just really dedicated to anything he puts his mind to.

He is a pioneer, he is eccentric, and he is different, but I think all the bright, brilliantly successful people in all sports and life are different and many are outliers in their industry, that’s where you could also put DeChambeau. They view the world through a different lens than others.

It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see DeChambeau contend again this week at The Players, where he has only played twice but has been under par in seven of his eight rounds. He has previously struggled on the 18th hole and has made three double-bogeys on it, so if he can figure that out – and he figures out most things in time – then he will certainly be in the picture this week.

With the distance he hits the ball, DeChambeau can hit a three-iron off that tee and leave himself a six or seven-iron into the 18th green, so we might see him play it in a conservative way this week, there will be other holes he can attack. He’s a smart guy and will come up with a different strategy to play that hole than he has previously.

TPC Sawgrass isn’t necessarily a golf course that you would say suits DeChambeau’s game, but what we’re seeing more now is him being able to sit these different golfing exams and still come out on top. It may be an obvious pick, but DeChambeau is clearly arriving in great form and will be tough to beat.

Watch the Players Championship throughout the week on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel – Sky Sports The Players! Live coverage begins on Thursday March 11 from 11.30am.

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