Bryson DeChambeau defended the skill of his long-driving attack style after firing two eagles on Friday but fell from the lead of the PGA Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
DeChambeau, who won his first major title in last month’s US Open at Winged Foot, followed an opening 62 with a four-under par 67 in Friday’s second round to stand one stroke back.
Scotland’s Martin Laird and Americans Austin Cook, Brian Harman, Peter Malnati and Patrick Cantlay shared the lead on 14-under 128 after 36 holes on TPC at Summerlin in suburban Las Vegas.
Sixth-ranked DeChambeau drove the green 373 yards at the par-4 seventh and holed a 26-foot eagle putt. The 27-year-old American eagled the par-5 16th after a 367-yard drive and pitch to 10 feet.
Such long-distance blasting without regard to landing in fairway or rough had Matthew Fitzpatrick questioning the skill of DeChambeau’s feats after the Englishman’s second round Friday at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
“He’s in the rough and miles up and he’s just hitting wedges everywhere,” Fitzpatrick said. “It just makes a bit of a mockery of it I think.
“Some of the places he hit it, and he’s cutting corners, when he’s on, there’s no point is there? There’s no point. It doesn’t matter if I play my best, he’s going to be 50 yards in front of me off the tee. The only thing I can compete with him is putting and that’s just ridiculous.”
Fitzpatrick said he hoped the R&A and US Golf Association might do something to limit equipment and reduce such driving distances.
“It’s not a skill to hit the ball a long way in my opinion,” he added. “I could put on 40 pounds. I could go and see a biomechanist, and I could gain 40 yards.
“But the skill in my opinion is to hit the ball straight. That’s the skill. He’s just taking the skill out of it in my opinion. I’m sure lots will disagree. It’s just daft.”
DeChambeau saw the remarks as praise at his results more than insult at his impact on the game.
“I appreciate that comment. It’s a compliment to me,” DeChambeau said. “A year ago I wasn’t hitting it anywhere near as far as I am today. It took a lot of work, a lot of hours to work through the night to figure out a lot of this stuff.
“I would say it actually takes more skill to do what I’m doing.”
DeChambeau saw Fitzpatrick as trying to rally support for “a certain set of players” but emphasized, “This game has given me the opportunity to showcase something pretty special.
“I feel like I’ve started to go down a path that has allowed me to have an advantage over everyone. I think that is a skillset when you look at it.
“I think it takes a little bit more skill to do what I’m doing and that’s why there are only a few people doing it out here. If anything, it’s more difficult to hit more fairways the way I’m doing it with the rules today.”
DeChambeau said he would welcome a chance to convert Fitzpatrick to his style.
“I feel like it’s great for the game,” he said. “I don’t think it takes less skill. I do hit a couple of errant shots, but I do hit a lot of fairways, I still hit great irons, and I make a lot putts. I still think there is a lot of skill in that.”
Cantlay seeks rare feat
Meanwhile, Cantlay could become only the fourth player since 1960 with a top-two finish at the same PGA event over four consecutive years.
He can join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Cantlay won in 2017 and has been second the past two years.
“That would be great,” Cantlay said. “Every time I come here I feel like I have a chance to win.”