Game-changing. That is the impact golf insiders believe Bryson DeChambeau could have on the sport with his power approach as he targets back-to-back major victories this week at the Masters.
The American, who has undergone a much-debated physical transformation over the past year, divides onlookers with his aggressive game plan but his dedication has earned him the respect of his fellow professionals.
No sooner after DeChambeau outmuscled Winged Foot to win his maiden major in September and his attention swiftly turned to his preparation for Augusta National.
“I’ve only seen improvements in strength increase, I’ve obviously felt better every day, so I really don’t know where the end game is on this,” DeChambeau told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday.
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In a reconnaissance round last week, with 1998 champion Sandy Lyle, the world No 12 flew the green with a three-wood off the tee on the 350-yard par-four. Last month, DeChambeau revealed shot data that showed a drive carrying 403-yards.
Such numbers would see him effectively turn the par-72 layout into a par-68.
In his quest to overpower every golf course he sets foot on, the seven-time PGA Tour winner has practised in recent weeks with a 48-inch driver, the longest shaft permitted. On Tuesday, he was non-committal over whether he would use the club despite “really promising” results.
Such has been the pre-tournament focus on DeChambeau that certain comparisons have been made between the 27-year-old and how Tiger Woods overpowered Augusta on his way to his maiden major in 1997.
Woods became the youngest winner of the Masters at just 21 years 104 days old and his overall score of 18-under par remains the lowest in the tournament’s history, with Jordan Spieth matching that in 2015.
But while full of admiration for his countryman, 15-time major winner and reigning champion Woods says advancements in technology mean that any resemblances wouldn’t be accurate should DeChambeau triumph on Sunday.
Woods said: “I happened to have speed and I happened to hit the ball in the middle of the face and was able to have a little bit of an advantage over the guys.
“But now you have the ability to optimise one club, and to be able to use that driver as a weapon, to hit it basically as far as you possibly can, we just didn’t have the technology to be able to optimise that.
“And Bryson has put in the time. He’s put in the work. What he’s done in the gym has been incredible and what he’s done on the range and what he’s done with his entire team to be able to optimise that one club and transform his game and the ability to hit the ball as far as he has and in as short a span as he has, it’s never been done before.
“You know, I had speed, and as you say, in ’97, I hit it far. As I got bigger and I filled out and tried to get stronger, it was to not hit the ball further. It was to be more consistent and to be able to practice longer.”
DeChambeau is the longest driver on the PGA Tour, averaging 344 yards, and he believes the absence of patrons lining the fairways could act as an advantage as he looks to open better angles to the green.
Put simply, his plans include averaging 320 yards off the tee, taking advantage of the two par-fives on the back nine – 13 and 15 – and driving it past the bunkers on the 18th.
“I can hit it as far as I want to, but it comes down to putting and chipping,” said DeChambeau, who will partner world No 2 Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen in the first two rounds.
“That is one of the things I think sometimes people struggle to see. As much as I gain an advantage off the tee, I still have to chip it well, putt it well and wedge it well, even iron play it well.
“That’s what I did at the US Open. If I don’t putt it well at the US Open, don’t wedge it well, don’t hit my irons close, I don’t win that tournament.”
Bryson looking to defy doubters again
Analysis from Sky Sports Golf presenter Nick Dougherty…
“He is changing the way others, including Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, are looking at the game. He has bulked up. He has put on so much weight in terms of muscle mass, the training that he is doing to add distance…
“That is naive to so many of us in within our sport. At the US Open he was going to try and bully a US Open venue. That will not work, it never has done before… [but] it did. So many of us within the sport – and we have been watching it for so many years – were wrong.
“He is going to try and apply the same philosophy to Augusta National. You better watch out because back in the day when Tiger won in 1997 they said this is a par-68 for this guy.
“Because he was hitting it 323 yards average that week off the tee. Never seen before. Bryson will go past it this week and maybe for the first time we are going to see it play as a par-68 for somebody else.
“I do not think the Green Jackets at Augusta National are going to like that.”
Watch The Masters this November live on Sky Sports, with all four rounds exclusively live on Sky Sports’ Masters channel. Live coverage beings with Featured Groups from 12.30pm on Thursday, November 12.
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