AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bryson DeChambeau rolled into the Masters last fall confident he could reduce golf’s most famous fairways to a personal game of miniature golf. And why not? He’d just done that to similarly challenging Winged Foot, a dominant US Open victory sending him off to the Masters strong in the belief he would soon be a double major winner.
What is it they say about those best-laid plans?
DeChambeau’s plans went awry. As he was quickly reminded, Augusta National bites back. He didn’t obliterate the course; it obliterated him.
From the opening tee to the final green, DeChambeau rode the Augusta roller coaster as wildly as anyone in recent memory, a final 2-under score barely able to tell the story underneath. He finished tied for 34th, but his scores included 18 birdies, 11 bogeys, two double bogeys, and one triple. He plugged balls in the rough, searched for balls in the fall foliage, and never located the precision game that keeps his prodigious length in check.
Now, five months later and back for another big swing, DeChambeau is a little beat leaner (though still thick with muscle and armed with incredible swing speed) and, he hopes, a little bit smarter (though still thick with analysis and armed with a secret new club three years in the making).
“Given what I learned from the Masters last November, I’m going to be focusing mainly on accomplishing how I hit iron shots into greens to give myself the best chance to give myself the ability to make birdie,” DeChambeau said during his sitdown with reporters Tuesday.
“There were a lot of times last year where I hit decent enough drives, but I just didn’t feel like I was hitting shots in the correct quadrants of the greens or giving myself opportunities on par 5s like I should have.”
There is a self-confessed rabbit hole DeChambeau is aware he falls into when it comes to analyzing his Masters mistakes and planning his Masters attack, but that’s not surprising. He is famous (infamous?) for drilling down on every aspect of his golfing life.
The tinkering with clubs that once earned him a “mad scientist” moniker, all shaft lengths equal and all greens reachable in one. The focus on physics and the ways he believes he can force a golf ball to act. The two-year diet and exercise plan that led to such a drastic change in his body and swing. The openly stated desire to change the game for the future, inspiring a revolution from inside the sport.
The casual mention Tuesday of a future when a “7-foot-tall human being able to swing a golf club at 145 miles an hour effortlessly” and the ensuing admission “that’s when I’m going to become obsolete potentially even.”
None of that has changed, and all of it continues to keep DeChambeau among the most interesting players on the PGA Tour. That remains true this year, when he returns from his November nightmare just as determined to conquer a course he believes is so well suited to his game.
“I mean, I’m still going down numerous rabbit holes, and I will never stop, not only to win golf tournaments but to definitely win this tournament,” he said. “I mean, this has been on my radar since I was a kid, and now that I’ve accomplished winning the US Open, this is the next goal for me.
“And I will not stop my pursuit of knowledge of the game, knowledge of the body, knowledge of the golf swing to give myself the best opportunity to win. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution. You have to be able to go out there and hit a great shot and execute when the pressure comes around.
“It’s funny you say that because I can give myself the most advantages all day long, but if I don’t go out there and just execute, it doesn’t really mean much.”
In other words, distance isn’t everything. Nor is it the only thing.
“There are certain holes out here where length does help tremendously. And so as you look at it from a statistical point of view, there are a lot of advantages to be had with length for me,” he said. “But, again, you go up around those putting greens, and you just try to hit it into those areas of the green where the pins are, and it becomes very diabolical.
“Length is only as good as you can hit your next shot, is what I always say. And that’s the most important thing about Augusta National, is it doesn’t test just the driving. It tests your second shots, it tests the third shot, it tests — you’re making for par, your 4-footer you’re trying to make for par.”
DeChambeau didn’t earn the grade he wanted last November. But here he was Monday, on the practice range, doing some sort of speed driving drill, muscling ball after ball off the tee in rapid succession, a workout unique enough to draw veteran Vijay Singh over to watch.
Augusta may have hit him hard last year, but he’s back to take another swing.