NORTON — The cream of the PGA Tour will file down Arnold Palmer Boulevard here on Friday, landing smack dab in the middle of TPC Boston’s bucolic grounds. A field of 98 golfers will compete in the Dell Technologies Championship, and the top 70 will advance to the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs.
Only one PGA Tour pro has a mind so unique that terms like “parasympathetic states’’ and “Newtonian mechanics’’ are mixed into the golf lexicon as effortlessly as “shank’’ or “fried egg.’’
It’s a treat to get a glimpse at the thought process of Bryson DeChambeau, the 24-year-old prodigy in the Ben Hogan cap who enters this weekend’s event atop the FedExCup standings. DeChambeau’s grasp of the mathematical elements in golf has been a source of intrigue — and controversy — since he burst into the limelight after winning the NCAA individual title and US Amateur championship in 2015 while majoring in physics at Southern Methodist University.
Growing pains are part of adjusting to the PGA Tour, but in 2018 the Modesto, Calif., native has matched the hype. After winning the Northern Trust last week in New Jersey — his third victory in his last 30 starts on Tour — DeChambeau forged into the FedExCup lead, which carries a $10 million top prize. With 3,617 points, DeChambeau has opened a sizable lead over world No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson (2,969), Justin Thomas (2,954), Tony Finau (2,709), and Brooks Koepka (2,332).
DeChambeau finished in a tie for 30th last year in his Dell Technologies debut. Though he got to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Monday after last weekend’s victory —“That’s never a bad deal,’’ he said — he’s not concerned with the FedExCup standings at this point.
“My favorite thing is to be able to execute a shot with the highest feeling of stability and control,’’ DeChambeau said Wednesday. “That’s always been my goal. It’s not necessarily where I am in the FedExCup points list, it’s more am I executing the shots up to the level I know I can.’’
With his Northern Trust triumph, DeChambeau joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woodsas the only players to win an NCAA championship, US Amateur, and at least three PGA Tour events before their 25th birthday.
Yet it’s everything but golf that sets DeChambeau apart. In a wide-ranging news conference, he flaunted an impressive understanding of body mechanics, divulged brain training methods that have helped him through stressful situations on the course, and reminisced about playing Ping-Pong against a robot with his buddies. In a notable moment of humility, he admitted he can’t control individual atoms.
DeChambeau puts his brain-power to use 18 holes at a time, feeding off positive energy from galleries as he whips around his scientifically engineered, single-length irons. Last year at TPC Boston, he liked what he saw.
“I definitely enjoyed this golf course,’’ he said. “There definitely are some score-able holes, which I like. This golf course warrants a lot of ball-striking and great putting.’’
DeChambeau isn’t the only one who believes keeping the ball in the fairway is key at the 7,287-yard, par-71 layout.
“I think the course is well-liked,’’ said Matt Kuchar. He is one of seven Tour players who has advanced to every Dell Technologies Championship since the FedExCup format’s inception in 2007.
“Certainly, I like it. I think anywhere you go, driving is such a critical thing. Here is a little more forgiving than last week at Ridgewood. The rough was really thick, tree-lined fairways. Here [it’s] a little more open, but still if you get yourself started well, that’s kind of the key factor is really driving the ball well around here.’’
Added American Kelly Kraft, “I think this course fits me because it’s not overly long. You have some holes where you just have to hit it down the middle and I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways lately. My game plan is just to wear out the fairways and see what I can do from there.’’
Jordan Spieth wore out TPC Boston’s fairways in 2017 en route to a second-place finish. His pal Thomas finished first.
But 2018 hasn’t been as kind to golf’s golden child. Spieth is winless this season and sits in 33rd place in the FedExCup standings (only the top 30 will advance to the season-ending Tour Championship) and his world rank has dipped to ninth.
Still, he’s intimately familiar with the Norton course.
“Greens in regulation, and then speed putting,’’ said Spieth of the keys to success. “The rough’s not overly demanding. You have to just pick your spots on when to make birdies. You have a couple good looks in the first four holes or so and then when you make the turn onto the back nine — 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 are kind of meaty. You try to take advantage early and late and just kind of hold on in the middle.’’