When world eighth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau committed last December to the inaugural 3M Open, he did so saying he wanted to meet with company scientists about nanotechnology.
Of course, he did.
“That’s the future,” he said.
The first notable name to say he would play in the PGA Tour’s regular return to Minnesota, DeChambeau majored in physics at SMU and has revolutionized the way the game is played — or at least the way he plays it.
He has done so with a scientific approach to his equipment and a belief in both the single-plane golf swing and air density’s infallibility.
“There are laws that govern the way of nature,” DeChambeau said.
And he has applied them to golf and the golf swing, determining years ago that he wasn’t smart enough to master a game in which all 14 clubs had their own length, lie angle and loft. So he experimented and simplified until he came up with a unified swing plane and set of clubs, each of which share the same length, lie angle, head weight and differ only in their lofts so he can hit each one a specific, different distance.
All of it is in the name of building a repeatable golf swing.
He calls himself “no smarter than anyone else,” but considers himself a “great experimenter” and tinkerer who always seeks to improve. He read the book “The Golfing Machine” his instructor gave him when he was 15 and adapted a system it taught, and built a noticeably upright golf swing with clubs whose shafts are all 37.5 inches, the length of a 7-iron.
That swing and his game won the NCAA individual title and U.S. Amateur in the same year, 2015. He also has won five PGA Tour events — with no top-10 major finishes — and has earned a top-10 world ranking, all by age 25.
He has won once this season and has three other top-10 finishes. He also missed three consecutive cuts, including the PGA Championship, after he tied for 29th at the Masters in April. He tied for eighth at the Travelers two weeks ago.
3M Open executive director Hollis Cavner disagrees with one of the conclusions to which DeChambeau has arrived.
“He’s definitely the smartest guy in the locker room,” Cavner said. “He has brought a new level to the tour with his brains.”
DeChambeau’s inquisitive mind is why he signed on so early to play in Blaine. He toured 3M’s “World of Innovation” on its Maplewood campus Tuesday, meeting with representatives and scientists from the championship’s title sponsor that produces 55,000 products in 51 “technology platforms.” Corporate tents at TPC Twin Cities this week feature the 3M logo with this slogan: Science. Applied to Life.
One of those 51 technology platforms DeChambeau toured Tuesday is nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on a tiny, atomic scale. There are 1 billion nanometers in a meter.
He calls it both “the future” in its applications to the human body and “weird, crazy stuff” that he hopes to better understand.
“I’m more interested in flying technologies and stuff like that,” DeChambeau said. “But nanotechnology is definitely an interest of mine as well. I love everything about science.”
He applies his knowledge of air density to his everyday work, as do all his contemporaries even if they don’t call it as such.
“Look, there’s a lot of people out there that have never taken air density and understood it like I have,” he said. “They just do it intuitively. They know it’s colder so, well, duh, the ball flies shorter. But we’re just trying to put numbers to it.”
Listen in on DeChambeau’s shot routine with his caddie and it does sound something like a physics lecture.
“He likes all that stuff,” said Wayzata native Tim Herron, a 26-year PGA Tour veteran who is as about unscientific as you get. “He’s more of an engineer-type thinker. He loves it. He’ll always talk to you about it, too. That’s what is cool: He’s very approachable. He’ll get your head spinning a little bit.”
DeChambeau and a buddy attended the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska and not only cheered a U.S. team that beat Europe for the first time in eight years, he saw his future. Two years later, he was part of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that lost in France.
Now he has returned to Minnesota, to Blaine. He comes bringing his modified clubs and all he has learned so far about the swing plane and aerodynamics.
“It is amazing how analytical and good he is at figuring things out,” Cavner said. “He takes a different approach to it, but it’s caught on. A lot of people are teaching what he is doing now.”
While others teach it, DeChambeau continues to learn, which is why he decided so early to play in Minnesota’s first yearly PGA Tour event since 1969.
“I love understanding and growing human potential,” he said. “That’s something I’m all about.”