He’s a bit bonkers but a bloody good golfer. In a short space of time, Bryson DeChambeau has risen to world No.5. It won’t be long before he’s challenging for top spot if he keeps up the scoring that has put him on course to become the fourth American to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
DeChambeau said one of his goals in 2019 was to record “an international victory”, having already chalked up six successes in the space of 18 months on the PGA Tour. It could be mission accomplished at the first attempt. After backing up a brace of 66s on the first two days with a 68 for a 16-under-par total, the 25-year-old heads into today’s final round on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club with a one-shot lead.
His nearest challenger is the defending champion, Haotong Li. The classy Chinese player held off Rory McIlroy over the closing circuit to win here 12 months ago. He’s now given himself a chance of joining Stephen Gallacher as the only players to make a successful defence of the iconic coffee pot. DeChambeau, though, is a dangerous man with a whiff of victory in his nostrils.
“It would be awesome to win on the European Tour,” he admitted, having bounced back from back-to-back bogeys at the seventh and eighth to pick up five birdies in the closing ten holes. The first of those was made from close to 30 feet at the ninth. “It was big,” he said. “I needed that to give me some momentum.
“I didn’t have my A game again. My ball-striking was a little suspect. Shoot, I’m still leading. It’s fantastic. I couldn’t be displeased with that, but I feel I’m underperforming a little bit.”
DeChambeau has triumphed three times in his last eight starts. His scientific approach to the game – all of his irons the same length, he uses an elaborate putting-alignment routine and soaks his golf balls in Epsom salts to determine their centre of gravity – is doing him no harm whatsoever.
“I made it happen when it’s necessary and hopefully I can have one more of those days and maybe even a better-ball striking day tomorrow,” said the leader. “I know that even with not my best, I can get it done. I’ve done it before, and so if worst comes to worst tomorrow, I’ll figure out a way.”
Li is now 37-under for his seven rounds on this course. His 67 contained seven birdies. He twice bounced back immediately from bogeys, the first at the ninth and then at the 16th.
“I had a couple little bit of mistake on the greens, but my long game was much better than the last two rounds,” said the 23-year-old. As well as he played here last year, Li seems surprised to be in the mix again. “I didn’t expect that,” he added.
Ernie Els, the only player to win this event three times, is still in with a chance of pulling off another victory at the age of 49. He sits two off the lead along with Englishman Matt Wallace. “It was really a grind for me today. I feel quite tired,” said Els after a bogey-free 70. “I didn’t get it going like yesterday. I kind of predicted that the course might play a little firmer and I found it difficult to get the ball close to the hole.”
On a disappointing day for Gallacher – a 76, which dropped him into a share of 69th on level-par – was his worst score round here since the final round in 2010 – Richie Ramsay was delighted with a bogey-free 67. Bettered only by Andrew Johnston’s 65, that lifted him 30 spots into joint-26th on eight-under.
“A move in the right direction,” he said, smiling. “I flat out played really good.I had two missed greens – at eight and nine – and got up and down both times. That was the difference as it kept the momentum going.”
Marc Warren, the other Scot to make the cut after coming through a qualifier earlier in the week, never really recovered from dropping three shots early on as he shot the same score as Gallacher. That left him one of only three players over par.