Big-hitting DeChambeau remains in contention at U.S. Open

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Associated Press

Bryson DeChambeau, of the United States, checks his lie on the 15th green during the third round of the US Open Golf Championship, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Bryson DeChambeau launched a towering drive on the 14th hole and watched it sail well left into Winged Foot's deep, gnarled rough.

“Dude, I can't stop over drawing it,” he told his caddie.

Maybe, but he and his rebuilt body can certainly overpower it.

Using a combination of muscle and mind, DeChambeau carved out an even-par 70 Saturday in the third round of the U.S. Open to remain in contention for his his first major championship. Golf's biggest bruiser was 3 under, two shots behind leader Matthew Wolff heading into the final round Sunday.

“The round today was a huge battle,” DeChambeau said. I was proud of the way I persevered out there today. It was difficult, especially when you’re not hitting it straight in the fairway. For me it felt like I kept myself in it, scrambled really well."

Known for his analytical approach to golf, DeChambeau spent the PGA Tour's pandemic shutdown adding 40 pounds of muscle and began hitting moon-shot drives upon his return. He led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 322.1 yards last season and used his newfound power to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic in early July.

DeChambeau was in contention Sunday at the PGA Championship before finishing fourth and was 22nd in the 2020 FedEx Cup standings.

The beefier bomber from central California said he would stick to his big-armed guns at the U.S. Open, blasting drivers despite Winged Foot's winding doglegs and lucky-to-find-the-ball rough.

DeChambeau hit half the fairways in each of his first two rounds to enter the third round in good position at 1 under.

Once moving day started, so did the hooks.

DeChambeau opened with a three putt on the first hole and pulled his second tee shot left, leading to a second straight bogey. He pulled his tee shot well left on the par-3 third, but got up and down with a nifty pitch shot banked off a huge slope.

Two more tee shots sailed left on Nos. 4 and 8, and by the time he hit the big hook on No. 14, DeChambeau was exasperated.

“Today was pathetic and it needs to get better if I’m going to win the U.S. Open," he said.

He never let it get to him.

Like he did at Nos. 4 and 8, DeChambeau was able to muscle the ball out of the rough to a decent spot and save par on No. 14. He made par from a fairway bunker on 15 and, after a 347-yard tee shot, made an 11-foot birdie putt on No. 16.

The next tee shot went a mere-for-him 329 yards and he converted that into a seven-foot birdie putt.

DeChambeau went against the long grain on No. 18 and paid for it when a hybrid landed weakly in the rough to the right. He was unable to hack the ball over the huge slope at the front of the green and watched a nine-foot par putt just slide by the hole.

“I’ve just got to hit a better hybrid,” he said. "I did not. Just started out to the right and didn’t draw it back."

Even with the slipup on 18, DeChambeau has put himself in position to prove his bully ball approach to golf works under major pressure.

His old scientific method had mixed results in previous majors; he missed the cut six times in 14 attempts with a high finish of a tie for 15th at the 2016 U.S Open.

The new plan of attack, mixing brawn with the brains, worked out pretty well at Harding Park at last month's PGA Championship.

Now it's time for DeChambeau to take a big swing at the next step.