AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bryson DeChambeau let his bravado get the best of him the last time he was at Augusta National.
He lost a ball, barely made the cut and finished a whopping 18 strokes behind Masters champion Dustin Johnson.
As with all things DeChambeau, he chalks it up as merely another valuable learning experience in the constant quest for perfection.
He certainly has no intention of backing off now.
“I don’t know the extent of my talent,” DeChambeau said Tuesday, prepping for another run at the green jacket. “I know that I’m very dedicated and whatever I set my mind to, I’m going to do. And I think that over the course of time, if you work hard enough, and you’re dedicated enough at something, it’s going to look like extreme talent.”
Extreme is a good way to sum up DeChambeau’s approach to golf.
It’s not enough to swing the club hard. He’s got to swing it harder and faster than everyone else.
It’s not enough to hit the ball a long, long way. He’s got to hit it farther than everyone else.
What if he winds up behind a tree? No problem.
He’s been analyzing his way out of trouble for much of his golfing life.
“When I was younger, my dad always would tell me to try and hit weird wedge shots or weird iron shots around trees, make weird golf swings so that I could adapt on the spot,” the 27-year-old Californian recalled. “I grew up being able to solve these problems, albeit hitting a golf ball in really unique, weird ways.”
Coming off an overpowering victory at last year’s U.S. Open, where he blew the field away with his mammoth drives, DeChambeau arrived in Augusta for a pandemic-delayed Masters talking smack.
In his eyes, par for the course was 67 rather than 72. The par 5s would be no match for his awesome length off the tee. He certainly didn’t anticipate any issues with the unimposing third hole, a mere 350 yards from tee to flagstick.
But this place has a way of humbling those who approach it with such arrogance.
Even No. 3 carries quite a bite when you don’t hit the ball where you’re supposed to.
In the second round, DeChambeau launched a towering tee shot that drifted left and landed with such force it plugged in a patch of thick grass still dampened by heavy rain. A search party was assembled, but no one could find the tiny white ball in the allotted time.
The lost-ball penalty led to a triple-bogey, essentially snuffing out DeChambeau’s hopes of another major title before he even got to the weekend.
Lesson learned, he’ll tell you now.
DeChambeau knows it won’t matter that he drove one 400 yards if he winds up in a spot on those notorious Augusta greens where birdie is out of the question and he’d do well just to avoid a three-putt.
You can almost see the wheels turning inside a head that was solving algebra problems at age 6, probing for a formula that will add up to a green jacket this time around.
“I’m still going down numerous rabbit holes, and I will never stop, not only to win golf tournaments but to definitely win this tournament,” DeChambeau said. “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.”
Even though things didn’t go as planned back in November, DeChambeau’s bulked-up bod and probing mind have undoubtedly changed the way the game is played.
He’s constantly getting hit up by young players looking for ways to hit the ball farther. His approach even had an impact on four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who admits he messed up his swing obsessing over changes that were designed to keep up with DeChambeau.
“I wasn’t trying to change anybody else’s game,” DeChambeau said. “I was just trying to play the best golf I could. I knew there would be people there to be influenced. I didn’t think it would be Rory. I think he’s a pretty smart, talented individual who knows how to play the game potentially better than me. It’s honoring and humbling hearing him say it’s a difficult task.”
It’s clear that DeChambeau sees himself as golf’s future.
Even as he continues to tinker with his equipment — yep, he claims to have “something in the bag this week that’s very helpful” without divulging any additional details — DeChambeau believes the game will be pushed to unimaginable heights by players wo are even bigger and stronger than he is.
“There’s not much more to gain from the technology side of golf club manufacturing,” he said “Where the massive gains will be is in athletes. Once you get somebody out here that’s a 7-foot-tall human being and they are able to swing a golf club at 145 miles an hour effortlessly, that’s when things get a little interesting. That’s when I’m going to become obsolete, potentially.”
Until then, he’ll keep swinging away.
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