Bryson DeChambeau said on Monday that he’s having to “relearn the course” at Augusta National Golf Club. This will be the fourth Masters of his career but his first since he started a weightlifting regiment and diet that has become part of the primary conversation in the world of golf over the last several months.
Because he’s now routinely carrying the golf ball 330, 340 and even 350 yards off the tee, he’s playing Augusta National in a way he (and everyone else in the history of the sport) has not. It’s turned the 7,500-yard jewel that plays to a par of 72 into a playground for him.
DeChambeau said this week that his par is 67.
“From a driving perspective, I just am trying to get up there like I’m in a batter’s box swinging as hard as I can trying to hit a home run,” said DeChambeau on Tuesday. “I don’t know if there’s a better way to say it.”
What that looks like, according to the man himself, is 7-iron into the par-5 second hole, “as little as 6-iron” into the beastly No. 8 and pitching wedge into the long par-4 11th and par-5 13th Pitching wedge.
“Eleven yesterday with Tiger and Freddie and J.T., I had pitching wedge in,” said DeChambeau. “I asked Tiger, I said, ‘What did you hit in in ’97?’ And he goes, ‘Pitching wedge.’ I’m like, ‘That’s cool, all right.'”
This is not only true for DeChambeau, of course — I’ve long thought par for Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy at Augusta National is 68 or 69 — it’s just that it’s more true for somebody who is hitting it so much farther than everyone else in the world. Still, even to shoot Bryson par, you still have to hit 53 other shots in addition to your 14 drives.
“I can hit it as far as I want to, but it comes down to putting and chipping out here,” said DeChambeau. “That is one of the things that I think people sometimes struggle to see. 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. If I don’t putt it well at the [U.S.] Open, if I don’t wedge it well, if I don’t hit my irons close, I don’t win that tournament.”
This is true; however, it’s also true that DeChambeau is bending the percentages in his favor.
Statistician Joe Peta recently put together a nice thread in which he posited that you need to gain around 14 strokes to have a chance to win the Masters (there are other arguments that this number is maybe a little higher, but we’ll go with 14 for the sake of the discussion and also because Tiger Woods won last year while gaining just 12).
Based on the way he’s currently driving it — DeChambeau said he’s hitting it farther than he was at the U.S. Open where he gained 5.3 strokes — he has a shot at gaining 6-7 of those 14 strokes on the field just off the tee. Again, that’s only part of the game, but you’ve put away such a big chunk of the work necessary in just 56 swings of the driver over the course of the week.
“And Bryson … he’s put in the time,” said Woods. “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 optimize 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.
“What Bryson has done has been absolutely incredible, and we have all been amazed at what he’s been able to do in such a short span of time; it’s never been done before.”
After the drive, it becomes a math problem to shoot 67 or 68. However, DeChambeau gives himself little room for error the rest of the way home. You can pick up strokes when every approach shot is from 140 yards, but it’s not always as easy to pick them up — especially for a long hitter — as it would be if every approach shot was from 210 yards (your misses must be smaller from shorter distances, and often that’s more difficult than simply hitting it far as they are two very different skills). You have to be lights out with your wedges and you have to roll it really well in any given week to pick up these strokes.
What’s really interesting as it relates to DeChambeau is that Augusta National will often give you pars if you want to play it safe. Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy recently discussed this on the Fried Egg Podcast. If DeChambeau can truly reduce the par-5 to par-4s throughout the week and play them in Bryson par, it seems feasible that he can play the rest of the course in even par or something close to it and walk away with a victory.
It sounds so simple and straightforward, but of course, it is not.
Even if he gains 10 strokes off the tee for the week but plays the rest of his tournament at tour average and gains exactly 0.0 strokes on the field, he won’t win. He’ll almost certainly give himself a good chance to win with driver, and if his irons, wedges and putter are good at all, he’ll be in the hunt.
DeChambeau knows all of this — all the math and the theory of it — but he also knows one other thing, which is why he warned everyone on Tuesday that hitting it far is great, but they don’t hand out green jackets for winning long drive contests.
“It always comes down to making the putts at the end of the day.”
Watch all four rounds of the 2020 Masters starting Thursday with Masters Live as we follow the best golfers in the world throughout Augusta National with Featured Groups, check in at the famed Amen Corner and see leaders round the turn on holes 15 & 16. Watch live on CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports App.