Bryson DeChambeau enters No. 16 blind, grabs share of early lead in Phoenix

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Bryson DeChambeau enters No. 16 blind, grabs share of early lead in Phoenix

PGA Tour

Bryson DeChambeau enters No. 16 blind, grabs share of early lead in Phoenix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Bryson DeChambeau is playing in his first Waste Management Phoenix Open this week at TPC Scottsdale. Still, it was surprising to hear that DeChambeau hadn’t played the famous par-3 16th hole until Thursday’s opening round.

“That was actually my first time playing the hole,” DeChambeau said. “Yeah, I didn’t even have a chance to play before.”

DeChambeau didn’t arrive in Phoenix until Monday evening, and spent Tuesday practicing, working out and resting. He hit the course Wednesday for the pro-am, but didn’t realize he was only playing nine holes because of the new format. So DeChambeau didn’t get a look at the back nine, including No. 16.

Talk about bravery. While the hole is a straightforward par 3 with little trouble, the Coliseum-like seating and atmosphere make it one of the more nerve-racking holes on the PGA Tour.

“What’s funny is like I was a little more nervous than I was at the Masters when I was an amateur,” DeChambeau said.

Luckily, DeChambeau hit a good shot, leaving himself a 7-foot look at birdie and earning applause.

“That was insane,” DeChambeau said. “I just tried to block it all out, even though it’s really difficult to. You just look down at the ground and try and look at the hole and that’s all you look at. … Unfortunately missed the putt, just misread it, that’s the way it goes.

“I guess I should have had a practice round on that hole.”

While he missed the birdie putt, he made three in a row entering the hole to jumpstart his opening round. The SMU product added birdies at Nos. 3 and 5 to shoot 5-under 66 and grab a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel.

DeChambeau is looking to regain momentum after a strong fall (T-17 or better in his three starts) and a poor start to the new year (23rd at Kapalua and two straight MCs entering this week). By the time he finished his round, he was leading the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee and second in strokes gained: approach-the-green. He was also positive in strokes gained: putting.

“I knew I was playing well and, shoot, even the last couple weeks, even though I missed the cut, I knew I was hitting the ball well, putting the ball well,” DeChambeau said. “It was just a matter of getting everything to come together.”

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