Reigning US Amateur Championship winner Bryson DeChambeau gave leading Qatari amateurs Ali Al Shahrani and Saleh Al Kaabi an insight into top-flight golf in a lively exchange on the beachfront of The St. Regis Doha ahead of this week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The talkative DeChambeau, 22, is making his tournament debut in the US$2.5 million European Tour event, while Shahrani and Kaabi, both 21, are each competing for the fourth time as they continue to try to forge a new path for Qatari golf.
DeChambeau, arguably the world’s most famous amateur golfer, met the Qatari duo at The St. Regis Doha’s private beach, where the trio chatted, watched each other swing and even had a discussion about the American’s unusual set of irons, which are all the same length.
DeChambeau said: “I looked at the entry list for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters before I arrived and I saw that there were only five. I saw the names of the two Qatari players, so it’s great to meet Ali and Saleh today. I talked a bit about my game and experience, and they gave me some tips about the course, which was very useful!”
Last year, DeChambeau made history when he became only the fifth player to win the US Amateur and NCAA Division I individual title in one season, a feat previously achieved by only Jack Nicklaus (1961), Phil Mickelson (1990), Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004).
Al Kaabi said: “It was fun to talk to Bryson as we know about his big wins in the USA and that he’s now travelling the world to play in pro events. He’s an interesting guy and we learned a lot.
“We also told him about golf in Qatar and Doha Golf Club, our home course, and some of the best ways to play holes when it gets windy, which is likely this week.”
DeChambeau’s US Amateur victory earned him starts in this year’s first three Majors – the Masters Tournament, US Open and The Open Championship.
However, after grabbing the first-round lead in Abu Dhabi last Thursday with an eight-under-par 64, he’s currently focused on conquering the Doha Golf Club in the second event of The European Tour’s ‘desert swing’.
“The course at Doha Golf Club is incredible and in great shape, so I’m looking forward to it. The greens are great and the fairways are awesome. The rough isn’t up as much as it was last week, so it’s going to be a bit more playable, but the wind is going to toss us in for a little bit of a loop,” DeChambeau said.
“When the wind gets up, it’s about controlling trajectories and ball flight. If you’re able to do that and gauge how much the wind is affecting it based it on the height of the ball, you’ll be fine, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.
“I like numbers and understanding how things happen and work, so hopefully if I get out there and I can figure it out pretty quickly, I’ll be fine.”
DeChambeau’s scientific mind and desire to understand the essentials of the golf swing led him to conclude that he could develop a more consistent golf swing if his irons were all the same length, a rare sight in professional golf and of interest to both Qatari golfers.
“Back in 2011, I was reading this book called The Golfing Machine and I was swinging on a certain plane, called the zero-shifting motion. That led me to understand that it would be too difficult to hit it with a wedge and also a three-iron, and that I’d be swinging my body in essentially 14 different ways with 14 different clubs,” DeChambeau said.
“So I decided to cut those numbers down and try to make it so I only have three or four swings, and really try to get it where there’s only one swing, so we made my irons all the same length and lie angle, and it’s worked out so far.”
Despite their tender years, Al Shahrani and Al Kaabi have flown the flag for Qatari golf in recent years, under the guidance of Team Qatar coach Mike Elliot.
Al Shahrani first played in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in 2012 when he was only 17. After further appearances in 2014 and last year, he’s looking forward to again testing himself against The European Tour’s finest, but will miss Elliot, who left on Monday night to compete in the European Seniors Tour qualifying school in Portugal.
“I’m feeling good about my form. I’ve been practising a lot the last couple of months, playing quite a bit, so I’m ready,” Al Shahrani said.
“I’m not really worried about anything because this is my home course, so I know everything about it. I just hope I play really well and I make the cut, although for sure, I’m going to miss my coach,” he added with a big smile.
Fans at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters can also watch Jin Cheng, China’s top amateur, make his Doha debut less than three months before he competes in the Masters at Augusta National. The teenager earned his spot at the year’s first Major by winning the seventh Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Hong Kong last October.
Indian Rayhan Thomas, 16, is also among the five amateurs in the field. The Dubai-based teen earning his place by winning this month’s Qatar Open at Doha Golf Club, where Al Kaabi and Al Shahrani finished seventh and 11th respectively.