Dubai Desert Classic: Different routes, same result for Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia in Round 1

The American is bookish in his approach to the game, while his Spanish rival is driven by instinct

Bryson Dechambeau of United States plays his shot during the first round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on January 24, 2019 in Dubai. / AFP / KARIM SAHIB
Powered by automated translation

If ever an example were needed to show there is more than one way to navigate a golf course, the 8am match in Round 1 of the 2019 Omega Dubai Desert Classic was it.

On the one hand, there was the world No 5, the highest-ranked player in the field, Bryson DeChambeau. A former physics major, with a mechanical swing, and irons that are all the same size and weight – that of a typical 6-iron.

Then on the other, Sergio Garcia, one of the European Tour’s great stylists, who often betrays the look of a tortured genius.

Where one calibrates, the other feels. DeChambeau's unique swing borrows theories from a textbook entitled The Golfing Machine, and he rationalises his game via ideas such as "zero-shifting motion" and the coefficient of restitution.

Garcia’s method is homespun. “My father told me to feel like pulling a chain down with both hands,” Garcia once said of his method of swinging the club.

Father Victor was there, too, watching on from beyond the ropes at the Majlis. After son Sergio played a perfect high-draw to prime position on the par-5 13th, Garcia Sr appeared lost in thought, swinging a wedge he was carrying with him one-handed, pushing up dust from the wasteland beside the fairway.

To describe DeChambeau and Garcia as a study in contrast vastly understates the point. And yet, when they reached the recorders’ hut, both were signing for matching rounds of 66, 6-under-par, and what was at the time a joint-share of the Round 1 lead.

Vive le difference.

“From my knowledge of what I have about the game of golf right now, I think we've accounted for probably half of everything,” DeChambeau, 25, said.

“We've still got a long way to go. Obviously there are things that ultimately I will never be able to control, which is wind. But if we can create an air tolerance that's good enough, then obviously that'll be better than most out here. So we've still got a long way to go.”

epa07314746 Sergio Garcia of Spain watches his shot on the 10th green during round one of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in Dubai, UAE, 24 January 2019.  EPA/MARTIN DOKOUPIL
Spain's Sergio Garcia often betrays the look of a tortured genius.Martin Dokoupil / EPA

Contrast that mode of assessment with Garcia. “I got better as the round went on,” Garcia, the 2017 Classic champion, said.

“I started hitting the ball very nicely on the back nine for sure. I hit some good shots on the front, don't get me wrong.

"But I played really, really well on the back nine. Overall, I think it was a nice opening round.”

Between them and Tommy Fleetwood, the other member of their three-ball, the match played the course in 16-under par in Round 1. It more than lived up to its billing as the marquee group.

Fleetwood was the only one of the three to have dropped shots on his card, after slowing on the second nine following a sparkling 31 on the way out.

The trio will play again together in Friday’s Round 2, going off from the first tee at 12.20pm. By then, maybe DeChambeau will have cracked a formula for greater consistency off the tee, or making those putts drop that in Round 1 shaved the hole.

He reckons he is at about 60 per cent in terms of what he needs to know about golf, “and that last 40 per cent is a lot”.

“I want to be able to go out on the golf course and not really [think], ‘Oh, it feels a little different today’, or ‘Something is a little different, I don't know what it is’,” DeChambeau said.

“That's not me. I want to be able to go, ‘Oh, it's because of this and this’, and be able to calibrate for it and ultimately perform because of those unique and different conditions.

“So that's what I mean. I'm trying to figure out different conditions, different atmospheres, different temperatures, different soil types, different firmness values of greens. Just everything, trying to understand as much as I possibly can so I can be consistent.”