David Drysdale joked that he’d been a mix of “Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicholson” in the first round of the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship due to a cocktail of good and bad in a one-under-par 71 that left him sitting just inside the top 50.
Playing partner Bryson DeChambeau, however, seemed Nicklaus-like from start to finish as the American amateur upstaged the pros to set a hot pace in the desert with a sensational 64. That earned DeChambeau, who won both the US Amateur and NCAA titles last year before a losing Walker Cup appearance at Royal Lytham, a one-shot lead over Swede Henrik Stenson, and, in Drysdale’s eyes showed that the 22-year-old will be the next American star.
“He’s got interesting clubs [his irons are all a 7-iron length] and interesting technique, but he was impressive out there today,” said the Scot. “He only missed one green and, even then, he was only 15 feet away from the hole. Like a lot of the guys coming out here these days, he looks ready to go as professional. He’s only 22 but he did everything out there today as though he was a seasoned professional. He’s also quick and that’s good to see.
“You’ve got to think Bryson is going to be another star in the making. This isn’t an easy golf course, by any means, but it was a breeze for him shooting eight-under out there.”
One over par after three, DeChambeau, who likens himself to Albert Einstein and George Washington in terms of being innovative, transformed his round with an eagle and seven birdies. “I wasn’t nervous – why should I?” he said. “There’s no expectations. I’m not worried about anything. If I hit a bad shot I’ve got an opportunity to show my grace and my character. In that situation, there’s no downside to it.”
With that attitude, a bright career surely beckons when he joins the paid ranks after the Masters in April and he has further opportunities to gain experience after also securing invitations to the Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic in the next fortnight.
Beating Drysdale by a shot to sit in a share of 29th, Scott Jamieson and Russell Knox were the top Scottish performers, the latter carding his two-under-par effort in the company of Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Darren Clarke. “Russell played lovely and he was a pleasure to play with,” said the Ulsterman of Scotland’s leading contender for his team at Hazeltine in September.