Heading into the Masters that begins Thursday morning, there is a prevailing sentiment that long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, who scored a six-stroke U.S. Open win in September at Winged Foot, might very well reduce Augusta National Golf Club to little more than a pitch-and-putt course.
On Tuesday in his pre-tournament interview, DeChambeau said he still is experimenting with a 48-inch driver, which is 2 ½ inches longer than standard length and might allow him to go from an average drive of 344 yards to as high as 360 or even 370 yards. But even if he sticks with his regular driver in the first round, DeChambeau has a huge advantage.
"Every day, I’m trying to get faster and stronger, and I’m trying to hit it as far as possible," said DeChambeau, who approaches each drive as if he’s standing in the batter’s box trying to hit a home run. "I’ve only seen improvements on strength increase. I am hitting it farther now than I was at Shriners (a month ago in Las Vegas), and I am hitting it farther than the U.S. Open. I am trying a driver this week that may help me hit it a little bit farther. I don’t know. Still up in the air."
Even if he sticks with his standard driver, DeChambeau is playing a different course than his opponents. Given that the Masters was pushed from April to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic and rainy conditions this week, Augusta National is playing longer than the standard Masters length of 7,445 yards because tee shots don’t run out as far.
But DeChambeau said he can reach the green on the 350-yard par-4 third hole with his three wood off the tee. On the 455-yard par-4 first hole, he has left himself with an approach of no more than 70 yards. On the par-5 575-yard second hole, he has been hitting driver-7 iron. On the 455-yard par-4 fifth hole, he hit an 8-iron approach into the wind during a practice round. He hit driver-wedge on the 450-yard seventh, driver-6-iron on the 570-yard par-5 eighth and driver-gap wedge to the 460-yard ninth.
On the downhill 495-yard 10th, DeChambeau said his approach is with "a 9-iron at worst." He hits a pitching wedge to the 505-yard par-4 11th which also is downhill. At the 510-yard par-5 13th, he cuts the corner of the dogleg left and leaves a pitching wedge approach. He hit 8-iron to the 530-yard par-5 15th and 455-yard 17th. On the 465-yard 18th hole, he can carry the bunkers on the left of the fairway and leave himself 110 yards to the green, a pitching wedge.
"As much as I can gain an advantage off the tee, I still have to putt it well and chip it well and wedge it well and even iron play it well, and that’s what I did at the U.S. Open," DeChambeau said. "It always comes down to making putts at the end of the day."
There are plenty of other long hitters who can challenge DeChambeau, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 12 Brooks Koepka, both of whom tied for second here behind Tiger Woods in 2019. But on Monday, Justin Thomas, who is No. 3 in the world, played with No. 6 DeChambeau and was impressed.
"It’s a substantially easier course for him than it is for everybody else," Thomas said. "Once he starts messing with that longer driver, then as crazy as it is, he might be able to hit it farther…He obviously still has to execute, but I sure would like to be hitting from his tee shots as opposed to mine distance-wise. It’s very impressive what he’s done, and yeah, it’s a very gettable course for him."