“Phenomenal debut for the 2020 U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup champion,” the announcer said on the PLDA’s livestream of the event on its YouTube channel.
The crowd cheered DeChambeau as he strode onto the tee at the Mesquite Regional Sports and Event Complex, which features athletic fields and a splash pad, and he pumped them up before taking the tee and improving throughout the first five sets.
The 80-player Open Division, which includes DeChambeau and past world long-drive champion Kyle Berkshire, was divided into five 16-man groups for Tuesday’s opening round. Each group then competed in five four-man sets. A player earned 200 points for winning a set, 100 points for finishing second and 50 points for finishing third.
While it was estimated 275-300 points would be enough to advance, DeChambeau racked up 800 through his five sets. With a wind-aided, 408-yard drive he won the fifth set by 51 yards and tied for second in his group. Scottie Pearman won the group with 900 points, winning his final set with a 381-yard drive on his final ball of the day.
Sixty-four players advance to Wednesday’s competition in the Open Division, with the field being winnowed to 32 for Thursday and 16 for Friday’s final.
DeChambeau was coming off a week in which he dazzled with his length at Whistling Straits. He hit a 417-yard drive at the par-5 fifth hole, drove the par-4 opener in Singles, and made eagle both times.
“It’s kind of uncharted territory,” five-time world long drive champion Jason (Golfzilla) Zuback told PGATOUR.com for an article last November. “We long-drive guys were on the fringe, and PGA TOUR guys said, ‘Oh, that’s cool, but it would never work on TOUR.’ Bryson is now doing a lot of the things that we did, and I don’t think you could argue that he hasn’t gained an advantage.”
Added two-time world champ Jamie Sadlowski: “His motion with the driver is a little robotic, like Steve Stricker, not a lot of forearm rotation or body rotation. Not a lot is going to go wrong there, and when you factor in the speed with hitting it fairly straight with the putting, the world-class all-around game, that’s a scary combo. I mean it’s freakish.”