And he’d already been thrown into the fire in the Amateur’s stroke-play portion, being paired with Jon Rahm.
had friends text me prior saying, ‘Do you know who that is? He’s the
World No. 1 amateur.’ So I was like, OK great. But the experience was
amazing. Jon was a very friendly guy, we spoke a lot. But he was also a
fiery guy who could release emotion and come back from it and I really
loved that as a competitor,” Salomon recently told PGATOUR.COM. “I got a
glimpse into what level of golf was needed under pressure. Near the end
of stroke play, Jon made two putts for crucial birdies from outside 30
feet to make it to a playoff (for the final spots in the match-play
bracket). It was incredible.”
Salomon had bested Rahm by a shot to
make his way to the knockout stage. Once again, his friends started
texting him when his opponent was slated.
“Now it was, ‘Do you
know who this guy is? He’s the NCAA champion. He’s the guy with the
funky swing.’ I was excited for the match. I was thinking I can’t wait
to see this guy on the range,” Salomon recalled recently. “I get to the
range and I’m thinking, who is this guy? Look at what he is wearing,
look at that swing, look at those clubs. But he was powering balls down
the range. I knew I was in for a challenge.”
But Salomon still
didn’t expect DeChambeau to win six straight holes from the fifth
through the 10th, nor was he ready for the deliberate play and intense
analytics DeChambeau brought to his game.
“I had my B or C game
that day in the 12 holes I played but he played unbelievable and had
five birdies. He just demolished me,” Salomon says. “It was a huge
learning experience for me. In that round I was taken so far outside my
element and outside of my playing style. Bryson was obviously very
analytical. … It was a big contrast to Jon. Bryson was very different on
the golf course. Not as friendly, all business, and I respect that. He
tore that place apart. It was playing like a U.S. Open course and he
made it look it easy.”
Next up was NeSmith, who finished 100th in
this season’s FedExCup. NeSmith had qualified for the U.S. Open earlier
that year and started the U.S. Amateur with a first-round 65. DeChambeau
won six of the first eight holes of their match. He made five birdies
and no bogeys on the front nine.
DeChambeau met another future PGA
TOUR player, Maverick McNealy, later that day. McNealy was the
consensus college player of the year in 2015, winning both the Haskins
and Nicklaus awards. McNealy also had good history at Olympia Fields,
winning the prestigious Olympia Fields Intercollegiate the previous year
(he would go on to repeat a month later, as well). McNealy, who’s 67th
in the FedExCup, joins DeChambeau in this week’s field.
with McNealy may have been DeChambeau’s toughest of the week. They were
tied after DeChambeau bogeyed the 10th hole, but he went on to win Nos.
11, 13 and 14.
DeChambeau had made match play in all nine USGA
amateur events he’d played, but this was just the second time he
advanced to the quarterfinals. He also did it in the 2014 U.S. Amateur
His quarterfinals opponent was Paul Dunne, who’d
received a special invitation to the championship after his incredible
performance in The Open Championship at St. Andrews. Dunne held the
54-hole lead before fading to 30th after a final-round 78.
Source: PGA tour