Bryson DeChambeau started his Masters on the back nine Thursday. By the time he stepped his hulking frame onto the 13th tee of Augusta National, he’d already bombed a 327-yard 3-wood on No. 10, only to miss a 6-foot putt for birdie, hit two drives (an original and a provisional) into the woods on 11 and rimmed out a birdie putt on 12.
Seven months after the Masters was originally scheduled and a few hours after morning rain delayed things further, the DeChambeau Show was on full display, a roller-coaster ride from start.
“Definitely a little bit risky out there today,” the 27-year-old Texan said on ESPN afterward. “I’m OK with that.”
Of course he is. Love the guy. Loathe the guy. He’s impossible to not watch. Anything can happen at any moment, each shot (good or bad) punctuated by a neurotic, obsessive, physics major mumbling to himself.
Now came Bryson at 13 though, the par 5, 510-yard dog leg left famous for its babbling Rae’s Creek tributary and its tournament changing eagles. Pre-tournament, this was the most anticipated shot.
He’d added 40 pounds, much of it during the pandemic lockdown, so he could pound balls further than previously imagined. He bragged that he considered this track a “par 67,” rather than the listed 72, because “I can reach all the par-5s in two, no problem.”
Earlier this week DeChambeau noted that an astounding tee shot had “cut the corner drastically” leaving him with a “pitching wedge in.” There was additional talk that he might just hammer it all the way into the 14th fairway, using the lack of patrons as an advantage.
All of this, DeChambeau claimed, was just facts and “not me being big-headed.”
So up stepped Bryson and all of golf zeroed in to see what would happen next.
In this case, it wasn’t some wallop into the 14th fairway. Nor did he cut the corner drastically and get to hit pitching wedge in.
Instead he knocked it an anticlimactic 291 yards into the pine trees and pine straw on the right. Then, after taking his time cleaning his cleats, he drilled his second shot deep and left of the green and into some thick bushes. He took a provisional and that went into the creek in front of the green. He found his original ball, chipped it toward the green only to have it land short and eventually carded a double bogey 7.
So much for reaching all the par 5s in two. So much for par 67.
“I just didn’t execute some of the shoots I normally do,” DeChambeau said.
Well, isn’t that what this entire phenomenon is all about? There is no normal with DeChambeau. His start may have been rocky, but by the end he maintained the same game plan — hit it long and hard no matter where it might end up — and finished with a two-under 70.
The 2020 U.S. Open champion is still very much in this.
“I’ll say that I am fortunate,” DeChambeau said.
Perhaps, but that’s golf. For all the drives into the trees, there were a bunch of putts that could have fallen that put him to five or so under.
If nothing else, he’s electrifyingly entertaining. He might hit it 400 yards or miss from inches. He could feud with officials or run away with the tournament. He’s outrageously cocky. He’s also completely committed to his plan, a sign of humility, like this is beyond what he is capable of doing. There are times he can sound like a pioneer. And times he can sound like a jerk.
“I kept telling myself, ‘patience out there,’ ” DeChambeau said. “No matter what I am going to have a lot of opportunities out there.”
He birdied Nos. 15 and 16. He had a shot at eagle on 2 to make the turn at even par. He picked up two more birdies on 8 and 9. He hit into the woods and found a way to par. He crushed it down the middle and found a way to par.
You never know.
He swings so hard you wonder if he might come out of his shoes. The noise his driver makes on contact is unlike anything you’ll hear in this sport. Even when things are going well, he can look anguished out there, like he is playing some game that no one else is.
On No. 8, the follow through on his tee shot was something out of a Barry Bonds swing. On 9, he hit it a massive 364 yards (“that was nice”) that left him with a second shot at a distance (109 yards) and an angle rarely, if ever, seen at this tournament. He got up and down from there.
“To be two under at the start of a major championship …” he said.
Not bad. Not great. He was all over the place, playing Augusta National with a brashness and a bullying way that maybe no one else has ever tried. And he isn’t backing down.
“I have to go and attack the golf course,” DeChambeau said.
It may work. It may not. It’ll be worth watching, which all alone is something for golf.
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