AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bryson DeChambeau was going to blow Augusta National last fall. He was coming off a convincing 6-shot victory at the US Open, beating the famous Winged Foot. He came to the Masters with a plan to do the same.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a green jacket.
DeChambeau was a long way off Augusta, but wide. The underrated short game that had also helped him at Winged Foot disappointed him. He made 18 birdies and an eagle for the week, that’s 20 under par, which was Dustin Johnson’s winning scoring record. But … DeChambeau also made 11 bogeys, two doubles and a triple.
“The stress of the tournament, just the spotlight, everything,” he said. “It all took its toll. It was a combination of some things that intensified my brain.”
And now he’s back, a little slimmer, with a better understanding and appreciation for both the diet he undertook to gain weight and distance and the need for precision around a demanding golf course.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll tiptoe through the dogwoods and azaleas at the Masters this week, carefully navigating Augusta National.
Bryson DeChambeau re-plans to try to blister on the spot.
“I had to remember what went wrong, what happened, what didn’t allow me to perform at the highest level that I did at the US Open,” DeChambeau said this spring while also trying to fine-tune his body. “My drive wasn’t the longest at the US Open, but I made an incredible putt, I fitted it incredible. My iron play was incredible and I handled it quite well.”
That, however, did not happen after he drove down Magnolia Lane.
“I look at Augusta … there were a lot of opportunities I missed with the wedging, the putting and the iron game,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it was necessarily the driver that got me in trouble for the most part, but there were definitely times when my putter, my wedges and my iron play did.”
DeChambeau has a simple solution: keep working on it. Keep trying to increase your clubhead speed. Keep trying to add distance.
Even if it didn’t work the first time he brought his scientific methods to Augusta National, DeChambeau walked away even having gained some ground in the field.
He has others thinking about him and watching his own games. While he improves and follows his plan, others have tried to emulate him and have gotten lost.
Rory McIlroy presented the best example. While the four-time main champion would never become a ravenous eater and try to gain about 40 pounds, as DeChambeau did, he certainly saw the benefits of trying to get more speed out of his swing in an effort to hit the ball further.
“I’d be lying if I said it had nothing to do with what Bryson did at the US Open,” McIlroy said after missing the cut at the Players Championship. “I think a lot of people saw that and said, wow, if this is the way they are going to set up golf courses in the future, [distance] help. It really helps. “
Since mid-February, McIlroy has missed two cuts and bounced back early from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play after his worst loss in a decade. He has two top-10s, but even those came with warning signs: He shot 72-76 over the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and closed with 71 at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession. Both times he had a chance to win. Both times he wavered over the weekend.
“I thought being able to get a little more speed is a good thing, and maybe just … to the detriment of my swing a little bit,” McIlroy said. “I got there, but maybe I need to control it a bit.”
McIlroy is not alone.
“You would be stupid if you said what [DeChambeau is] doing it on the golf courses doesn’t make it any easier, “said Justin Thomas.” I think it’s extremely underrated and not enough talked about how direct it hits to swing at 135 mph. I can hit it pretty crooked at 116 or 117 mph. He hits it really straight at 135. And it kicks it really good.
“For me, it’s being able to find those 10, 15 or 20 [yards] if I need it or if I can do it. I would love to fly it 330 every time. No offense to Bryson, I’m not going to gain 40 pounds. I don’t have the build or the stature for that. I’ve always tried to get the most out of what I can. “
DeChambeau has thought a lot and put a lot of effort into this over the past two years. He didn’t just start drinking protein shakes and lifting heavy weights one day. Under the guidance of coach Greg Roskopf, who also works with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, he began implementing a plan more than two years before embarking on it in the fall of 2019.
The results were quick. An initial weight gain of 25 pounds. Longer length from tee that now sees him lead the PGA Tour in driving distance at 320.8 yards. (For the record, McIlroy is third at 319.1).
DeChambeau admits that she may have gone too far with all the meat, potatoes, eggs, and other foods she was consuming. His daily ration had reached 6,000 calories. The realization that it was time to adjust his diet came at the Masters.
In November, DeChambeau said during the tournament and again weeks later that he just wasn’t feeling well. He had some balance problems. He even wondered if he had contracted the coronavirus; took a COVID-19 test before round three. It was negative.
“I actually went to various doctors, to various people, trying to find out what this was,” he said. “I had a couple of MRIs. I went to an inner ear doctor, I checked my eyesight, eye pressure, ear pressure, I even did an ultrasound on my heart, ultrasound on my neck to see blood flow and how things were moving through the different areas of my body. It all came back very, very well. “
DeChambeau also explained that he saw some pretty significant changes in his stomach, specifically inflammation. He began working on what he called “gut health” to ease the problems.
That meant altering their food intake a bit. So he returns to Augusta National a little leaner but with the same distance and the same plan of attack. The preparation, however, this time is different.
Before the November event, he took a month off from the PGA Tour and focused only on the Masters. He contemplated using a 48-inch driver to try to gain even more distance and try to shorten the Augusta National even further.
While he is still focused on the distance, this time he will have worked hard on other parts of his game. He will also come with positive results. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and was in the final stretch of the Players Championship.
Distance is an advantage at Augusta National. DeChambeau knows it. However, it is not imperative to be at the top of the rankings early Sunday night. Recent winners like Patrick Reed (287.4 yards from the tee, 182nd on the road) or Danny Willett (292.9, 129th) show that you don’t need more length to take home a green jacket. But it helps to be able to drive the bunker on the first hole, or the green on the third par 4, or have short irons on holes 13 and 15 of the par 5. At Augusta National, all the pieces must be working.
Consider this: DeChambeau played 63-year-old Bernhard Langer in the final round in November. Langer won both of his Masters before DeChambeau, 27, was born. When they paired, Langer was 80 yards behind DeChambeau from the tee. Langer shot 71; DeChambeau shot 73.
“I was in awe of how they swayed and how hard they hit him, and every once in a while I had to say to myself, go ahead, stop looking and play your game and find out what you have to do,” Langer said. , who also played with McIlroy during the third round.
DeChambeau apparently spends every waking moment doing the same. Certainly, this is how it appears when you’re at a golf tournament, often in the spotlight on the driving range, looking for the right combination of shafts, lofts, swing speed, and whatever else is necessary to get the ball into orbit.
And now comes another shot at the Masters with his plan to go for it still in place.
“I’m just trying to win tournaments,” he said. “I don’t really care too much what people think. It’s just about whether I can do it. Look, if I fail, I’ll do my best to find out why I failed. So if the skeptics are proven wrong, I’m not worried about it. I appreciate the skeptics, those who actually make me think the most, is this really correct?