MAD scientist Bryson DeChambeau’s wacky way of playing Winged Foot is making him look even more of a genius.
He stormed into contention for his first Major title by finishing the opening 36 holes at three under, adding a two-under-par 68 to his opening 69 thanks to a brilliant eagle at his final hole — the ninth.
America’s bulked-up brainbox has been sticking to his plan of smashing the ball as far as he can off every tee, even though most ‘experts’ have been saying that is suicidal over a course with tiny fairways and ankle deep rough.
Sky sports pundits Paul McGinley and Wayne Riley have been predicting he was more likely to shoot 76 than 66 if he stuck to that approach.
But physics graduate DeChambeau has been making fools of his critics since he used the three months in lockdown to pile on three extra stone of muscle, and emerged as the game’s biggest hitter.
That was due to a gruelling fitness regime and a diet that includes SEVEN protein shakes a day.
DeChambeau, 27, already dominated the ‘brain’ department with his mechanical swing and his decision to play with irons that all have exactly the same length shafts.
And now he has cornered the market for sheer brawn as well.
DeChambeau started the second round on the tenth, and his power came to the fore with that closing eagle at his final hole, the 557- yard par five ninth.
He hammered a monstrous drive 380 yards down the fairway, flicked a wedge from 178 yards — that’s right, a wedge! — to 6ft 6in, and coolly rolled home the putt.
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His playing partners, world No 1 Dustin Johnson and another of the game’s power hitters, Tony Finau, were shaking their heads in disbelief as they walked off the green.
They both paid Winged Foot plenty of respect as stronger winds made the ultra-tough New York track play tougher than on day one, when a record 21 players shot sub-par rounds.
Johnson bogeyed two of his final three holes and signed for a level par 70 that kept him on three over at halfway, while Finau was only one shot better off after adding a 73 to his opening 69.
By the time he had finished, DeChambeau was one of only two players out of the 72 morning starters to post a score in the 60s — two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson bagged a 69 to improve to one over.
DeChambeau said: “I’m really enjoying myself and that eagle on nine was such a fun way to finish the round.
“I was working on the range until it got dark after the first round because I didn’t feel I was hitting my wedges great.
“So I’ve put in the hard graft to get to this position. And the adjustments we made worked out beautifully.
“My confidence is at an all-time high and I’m playing fantastic golf.
“Doing my own thing is working for me, so why would I change now?” Almost everyone else was finding the going tough as Winged Foot finally bared its teeth.
Belgian Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters moved ahead of first-round leader Justin Thomas as two early birdies took him to six under par.
But six bogeys on the back nine dropped him back to level.
England’s Lee Westwood, who set out in a share of fourth place at three under and has fiancee Helen on the bag, started bogey- bogey and dropped four more shots in his final three holes as he carded a 76.
But at three over, Westy, 47, insists he is still in the hunt for that elusive first Major victory.
He said: “In US Opens you have got to hang around.
“Ideally, you don’t want runs where you drop four shots in three holes, but three over is by no means out of it.
“I shot three under yesterday. I know I’m capable of going out there and shooting that number again if I play well — and that will get me back to level for the final day.
“I’m sure even par won’t be far off winning this tournament.”