Bryson DeChambeau shines in pro debut with T-4 finish

Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau shines in pro debut with T-4 finish

PGA Tour

Bryson DeChambeau shines in pro debut with T-4 finish

Bryson DeChambeau’s highly anticipated pro debut at the RBC Heritage came to a satisfying conclusion on Sunday. The 22-year-old posted a T-4 in his first start among the money-making ranks, and while that isn’t a win, a top 5 registers as a rare feat for an opening pro appearance.

What did we learn about DeChambeau over four days at Harbour Town Golf Links? Well, he’s like any other rookie with no PGA Tour status. But mainly, he’s not.

Not even Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy had a better pro debut than the Clovis, Calif., native.

DeChambeau ended his time at the RBC Heritage on Sunday with a five-birdie splurge in a final-round 68 that boosted him to a 5-under total – four behind winner Branden Grace. It was one of two sub-70 scores from the 22-year-old this week, and his lowest round of the tournament.

But that last fact is telling. In his middle two rounds this week, DeChambeau appeared well on his way to scores of 68 or better before rookie mistakes got in his way.

On Friday, it was a double bogey on his penultimate hole, thanks to a pulled drive and a second shot that found the water. The next day was even more revealing.

Early in the third round, DeChambeau was scorching hot, coming out with three birdies – all on short putts – in his first four holes. He had reached 6 under, and, unbelievably, found himself tied for the lead on the weekend in his first pro start.

But right then, the newbie complex took over. DeChambeau nuked his drive out of bounds at the par-5 fifth and had to do well just to make bogey. Yet, the bogey save didn’t stop the bleeding, as he produced two more squares in his next three holes to fall off the pace.

Even with DeChambeau’s several professional starts over the last number of months as an amateur “intern,” he’s still inexperienced on the professional grind, and it showed in those few holes.

But otherwise, DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion, proved every bit as to why he is so heralded at age 22. Despite the expectations and pressure on DeChambeau, his game seemed rather in control all week. His putter held him back most of the time, but his tee-to-green play was mostly spectacular on a demanding, tight golf course. He seemed glued to birdies and proper execution on most holes. And even with those penchant for mistakes at times, his presence usually screamed “veteran” more than “rookie.”

He honestly made it look like contending is easy out on the PGA Tour. Which is crazy.

And it may only get better from here.

DeChambeau, as a non-member of the Tour, can use a maximum seven sponsor exemptions in the 2015-16 PGA Tour season. He already burned one at the RBC Heritage but saved himself another by virtue of his Harbour Town top 10 automatically earmarking him a spot in next week’s Valero Texas Open. After that, he has lined up spots via sponsor exemptions in the Wells Fargo Championship, the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Dean and Deluca Invitational (Colonial).

He will also play the Memorial and Quicken Loans National thanks to his U.S. Amateur victory.

But DeChambeau also earned 123 FedEx Cup points ($259,600) this past week, which puts him well on his way to the 361 he’ll need to accrue to earn PGA Tour special temporary membership – a status jump that would move him from seven sponsor exemptions to an unlimited amount. (He needs 335 FedEx Cup points or $488,299 more to earn his PGA Tour card for next season.)

So we may see a lot more of DeChambeau, who moved to No. 205 in the Official World Golf Ranking, in the near future than the current limitations would imply. And after his fine showing at Hilton Head, his belief suggests more visits toward the top of the leaderboard are likely.

“(I finished) 21st last week (at the Masters). Top 10 this week,” DeChambeau said. “(I’m gaining) more and more confidence each and every week.”

It’s only been one professional week, but the DeChambeau pro experiment is already performing ahead of schedule.

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