FORT WORTH, Texas — There’s a dominant force that looks poised to take over the PGA Tour and his name is Bryson DeChambeau.
He’s gone from quirky golf nerd with progressive, if bizarre, ideas about the construction of his golf clubs (all irons the same length) to the resident hulk of the PGA Tour, having gained some 20 pounds in muscle in the past year.
It’s difficult not to notice the change in DeChambeau’s appearance, and it’s impossible not to notice how he’s suddenly become the sport’s longest bomber off the tee.
DeChambeau is laying waste to some of the drives of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, two of the best drivers of the ball in the game.
So, it’s no accident that DeChambeau, with the second consecutive 5-under-par 65 he shot on Friday, is one shot out of the lead at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club.
For the moment, the lead belongs to Harold Varner III, who has played wonderful golf en route to 11-under par to DeChambeau’s 10-under.
But those thundering footsteps Varner undoubtedly hears from behind him are those of the bulked-up golf nerd.
“It was fun being able to bomb it out there and hit it in the fairway most of the time,’’ DeChambeau said. “I felt like I just picked away the golf course. It wasn’t anything crazy out there, but when I needed to make pars or make a crucial 10-footer, I did it when I needed to, and just kept the train rolling.’’
Close behind Varner and DeChambeau, who’s tied with Jordan Spieth at 10-under, are McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele at 9-under par. Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Branden Grace, Gary Woodland and Daniel Berger are all 8-under.
This should make for some serious weekend fireworks — weeks before July 4.
“The leaderboard is a who’s-who of golf right now [and] I’m just happy to be in the mix.’’ McIlroy said.
“I think the leaderboard speaks for itself,’’ Thomas said. “I looked up there at one point and I did notice that there was a lot of big names up there, some of the top players in the world. So, I think that that’s a testimony to a good course and a good setup. Hopefully we’ll give them some fireworks this weekend to watch at home.’’
McIlroy, like Thomas and Morikawa, is playing Colonial for the first time.
“From watching from afar, this is a golf course that’s always let the best players rise to the top,’’ McIlroy said, “You have to be in complete control of your game, hit fairways, hit greens, convert some putts.’’
Interestingly, McIlroy helped get control of his game at the home he’s renting this week.
“Actually, the rental home we’re staying in this week has a simulator in the basement, and I’ve actually hit a few balls in there [Thursday] night, and that helped,’’ McIlroy said. “It’s hot here; you don’t want to take too much energy out of yourself. But the fact that where we’re staying has a simulator and you can hit some shots [to get] some numbers … I just needed to sort of dial them in a little bit. I did that and seemed to help this morning.’’
DeChambeau acknowledged what McIlroy said when he noted, “There’s a lot of great players up there’’ on the leaderboard.
“I’m looking forward to an amazing challenge this weekend,’’ he said. “I’ve always liked this golf course, but for some reason I haven’t played my best here. I’m looking to change that this week.’’
If he does, he’ll do it by overpowering not only Colonial but the rest of the field with his new-found strength.