Safeway Open: A Ruling, A Change, and Cameron Champ in First

 NAPA, Calif.—There was a ruling that seemed to take longer to make than to build the transcontinental railroad. There was a nine-shot swing that turned Bryson DeChambeau from a leader to an also-ran.

  And after the third round of the Safeway Open there was a kid in first, Cameron Champ, who is virtually a local and definitely is a fascinating story.  

   Champ—and what a great name for an athlete—shot a 5-under-par 67 at Silverado Country Club Saturday  for a 54-hole sc ore of 202,  three ahead of both Sebastian Munoz  and Adam Hadwin.

  DeChambeau, who had two bogies, a double-bogey and nary a birdie.  He shot 76, falling to a tie for 15th, but because he hit his second shot on the par-5 18th into some gunk, behind the stands, managed to stay on  course and on camera—thanks, Golf Channel—as the sun sank over the Napa Valley.

  According to PGA Tour official Mark Russell, DeChambeau hit the ball into a penalty area where “between him and the hole was temporary immovable obstructions”

  DeChambeau had to decide whether to lift from the hazard at a penalty of one shot or drop in the hazard at the nearest point of relief without a penalty. DeChambeau walked up and back—and up and back. And up and back.

   Finally, he placed the ball, made a magnificent chip to about nine feet—and missed the birdie putt.

  Champ, 24, who grew up in Sacramento—and like DeChambeau, who was from the Fresno area—went to school in the Lone Star State, Texas A&M, while DeChambeau went to SMU.\

  So Silverado, 45 miles from Sacramento, is sort of a home course for Champ, who the first two rounds was commuting to see his grandfather, Mack, who’s in hospice with cancer.

  Mack learned the game in the Air Force but because he is African American was not allowed to play courses where he was based. It was Mack who taught Cameron at such Sacramento public courses as Haggin Oaks.

   The grandson is giving Mack a chance to find the success racial attitudes of an earlier time kept Mack from attaining

  According to statistics, Cameron averages 4.1 strokes a hole on par 5s. Interestingly Saturday Cameron didn’t birdie any of the four pars. That didn’t faze him a bit.

  “I’m extremely pleased,” he said. “Not to make a bogey on the scorecard today, mission accomplished. I’m hitting it well. I’m giving myself so many chances. Yeah, I’m certainly happy with the position I’m in.” 

   Champ has one Tour win, Sanderson Farms, about a year ago. But according to Brian Wacker in Golf Digest , the trappings of the victory, being paired with the big boys, such as Jordan Spieth, and a back injury threw  Champ off after the victory.

   He worked his way back.

  “I’m just executing everything,” said Champ, who gets his power not so much from his size, although he is 6-foot-1, but from his huge swing. He’s even outdriven Rory McIlroy.

  ‘I’m not making the little mistakes,” he said. “I’m hitting my shots. Then I’m getting it up and down when I need to. Today was like a faultless day. “

   Except he failed to position the ball on any of the par 5s to get even a lone birdie. The first two rounds he had seven birdies on the eight holes. 

  Asked the premature question on how important a win would be at an event close to home, Champ said, “Oh it would huge, In the time, the struggles we’re going through, it would  be mind-blowing, honestly. If I win (Sunday) that’s awesome. It I don’t, I’m going home to my family. So that’s all that matters.”

   Even to golfers there are things more important than golf.

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