AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bryson DeChambeau said college kids keep DMing him on Instagram to ask how they can get stronger and faster, inspiring him to envision a future of extreme athleticism in golf, of a fleet of 7-footers effortlessly swinging their clubs at 145 miles per hour.
“That’s when I’m going to become obsolete,” he said.
Funny thing is, DeChambeau might have already become obsolete after one round at the Masters. And unless the 6-1 hopeful suddenly grows 11 inches overnight, and adds some speed to his already absurdly violent swing, he will likely fail to win the Masters much like he failed to win it in November.
DeChambeau finished the 2020 tournament 18 strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson and one stroke behind 63-year-old Bernhard Langer. Thursday, he finished the opening round of the 2021 Masters 11 strokes behind leader Justin Rose and, yes, two strokes behind Langer. When you are losing ground to a 63-year-old at Augusta National, it is time to tweak something, anything, in your game.
“I personally didn’t swing it that bad,” DeChambeau said. “Just, it’s golf, man. I don’t know what else to say.”
DeChambeau entered the tournament saying that he had learned a lot from his November performance, or lack thereof, and that he would focus this time around on hitting irons into the most favorable spots on the greens. Putting aside the expected birdie chances on the course’s par-5s, DeChambeau specifically targeted the par-4s as a necessary point of attack.
And then the reigning U.S. Open champ went out and failed to birdie any of Augusta’s 10 par-4s. In fact, DeChambeau also failed to birdie any of Augusta’s four par-3s. He scored par or worse on 17 holes, making his lone bird at the par-5 15th en route to shooting his 4-over 76, a few country miles out of contention.
Among the culprits, DeChambeau said, were tricky winds, hard greens, and a few faulty swings.
“I need to understand how the ball flies off downhill slopes into uphill greens, and conversely, uphill slopes into downhill greens,” he said. “And all of the above.”
The good news? As they say in basketball, there’s no better time to be down 20 points than at the end of the first quarter. DeChambeau has time to make up the difference (assuming he makes the cut) and nobody can question the fact that he has the firepower to flip Augusta National on its head between now and Sunday evening.
But now, he has left himself absolutely no margin for error. Unless Rose crumbles — unlikely, given his distinguished history at the Masters and elsewhere — DeChambeau will need to string together three consecutive rounds borrowed from his Winged Foot playbook.
As always, the master of all Masters tinkerers remains willing to try anything to get his game turned around.
“I’m still going down numerous rabbit holes, and I will never stop, not only to win golf tournament but to definitely win this tournament,” DeChambeau said the other day. “This has been on my radar since I was a kid, and now that I’ve accomplished winning the U.S. 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. … 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.”