Like that double-deck burger’s special sauce or the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices, some things just aren’t meant to be known, particularly when it comes to professional golf and the science of it all.
And so it goes that brainy Bryson DeChambeau wouldn’t say just what changed Friday during a season of struggle after he shot a career-low 9-under-par 62 that leads the new 3M Open after two rounds by two shots.
“That’s secret stuff, man,” he said. “I’m not talking to you about that.”
DeChambeau has won five times on the PGA Tour by the tender age of 25 — four times in 2018 alone — with a reliance on his working knowledge of air density and a repeatable single-plane swing. But the same guy who seemingly couldn’t lose during last year’s FedExCup playoffs hasn’t won in 2019.
His eighth-place tie two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., was his best finish since he placed seventh at the limited-field, year-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. In between, he missed three consecutive cuts, including May’s PGA Championship, and finished T-22 in the Memorial Tournament and T-35 in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
And now after his bogey-free second round at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, he leads Canadian Adam Hadwin by those two shots, first-round leader Scott Piercy, Sam Saunders, Brian Harman and Sam Burns by four shots and four others, including Monday qualifier Arjun Atwal, by five.
At age 60, course co-designer and redesigner Tom Lehman followed Thursday’s 67 with a 69 and at 6 under is tied for 35th, eight shots off the lead.
“The idea of even being near the lead is a little bit hard to imagine with the quality of these players,” Lehman said. “I’m tired. It’s a long course, a lot of hard swings for me.”
While 85 players made Friday’s cut, Phil Mickelson missed it by eight shots after shooting 74-73. There will be another cut (70 players and ties) after Saturday’s round.
“I enjoyed my time here,” Mickelson said. “It’s a little shorter than I wanted. People here are terrific. Golf course is wonderful. I’m just not playing really good golf right now.”
Major champions Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Jimmy Walker and Lucas Glover all made the cut right on the number at 3 under. Young Australian Cameron Davis needed only to bogey No. 9 to deny all four, and he made a triple-bogey 7 instead.
Day needed to birdie his final three holes to shoot a 70 that included a triple bogey and then needed Davis’ help.
“I’m very pleased with how that went,” Day said of his finish, “but I just made it too hard on myself.”
Piercy fell back after shooting his own 62 on Thursday afternoon with Friday morning’s 70 that he attributed to feeling ill. Hadwin began the day two shots behind Piercy and ended it two shots behind DeChambeau after shooting 66.
DeChambeau hit nine of 14 fairways, just as he did Thursday. But he made 137 feet of putts that included a couple of short ones he hit stiff near the flag.
“I made a lot of 20-footers out there today,” he said. “That’s how you shoot 9 under. It’s nice making some putts you weren’t thinking you were going to make.”
He credited an improved swing and his driving consistency for a career round, calling his considerations of Friday’s hot, humid air and moist turf “the other little stuff that affects how I’m playing.”
“Ultimately, it’s about how you swing the golf club,” DeChambeau said. “All those other little things help me be more precise. As you could see today, I was close. So I was happy.”
DeChambeau called his morning “pure rhythm” and a “very smooth day.” He said his only nerves surfaced on his final hole — TPC Twin Cities’ long par-4 ninth that played toughest in the first two rounds — when he drove into the rough and was uncertain about his lie.
Asked where that peaceful, easy feeling comes from, DeChambeau said: “It comes from deep inside my heart. No, I’m just kidding. It comes through a lot of training, a lot of practice. You get to a place in your golf swing where you feel like you can do anything with it and it’s still going to go straight. I did it better today than I have in the past.”
He followed Piercy’s Thursday 62 with one of his own Friday and credits Piercy for opening “the floodgates” to really low scores.
“Certainly me doing that today inspires me to do even better over the weekend,” DeChambeau said. “I know I can do it.”
Playing partner Charles Howell III attributed his 66 that included two eagles to DeChambeau going so low. “He kind of dragged Keegan [Bradley] and me along with him,” Howell said.
DeChambeau did so after finding something in his swing in a season when the “struggle is what’s always going to make me better.”
What that something is, he’s not saying.
Given the scientific way he views and plays the game, you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.
“You may,” DeChambeau said. “You may.”