DeChambeau continues to tinker, don’t expect anything less

Bryson DeChambeau warms up on the range before a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Monday, April 5, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Bryson DeChambeau warms up on the range before a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Monday, April 5, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Credit: David J. Phillip

Credit: David J. Phillip

Tinker? Bryson DeChambeau?

Surely, you jest.

The PGA Tour’s Dr. Strangeclub arrived at the Masters with a newly designed club several years in development in Cobra Golf’s lab that he declined to name nor describe but remarked it was “very helpful.” It will be in this week.

He has spent practice time exploring the most aggressive lines of flight off the tee, carrying trees, bunkers and doglegs most players can’t reach. His set-up on No. 1 was so far right, he appeared to be targeting the South Carolina border.

Then there’s the breathing thing. Turns out he hadn’t been acquiring oxygen properly, prompting the dizziness he experienced here last year. No, he has not grown gills but altered his respiration pattern and the light-headedness “literally just went away.”

You ask DeChambeau what’s on his mind, you better stand back. He never fails to deliver. He wasted no time on Tuesday in designating the 2021 Masters as target No. 1. You win the U.S. Open by six shots like he did seven months ago, declaring such intentions so clearly gets peoples’ attention. Mix that up with his tireless pursuit of technical, physiological and futuristic golf zen and you can’t not listen to the man.

“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,” he said. “I mean, 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”

It has taken the five years since DeChambeau turned pro to gradually change how the game has viewed him, a slow transition from Swing Nut to the 400-Yard Drive Club. His power display at the Open even got the likes of Rory McIlroy interested in tweaking his swing. And while he acknowledges the inherent difficulties in swinging harder, faster and stronger -- “You have to have four or five things go right,” he said -- he cannot ignore how many are taking his stroke violence to heart.

“You’re already starting to see it with kids,” DeChambeau said. “I’ve had numerous college kids ‘DM’ me on Instagram and ask me, ‘How do I get stronger? How do I get faster.’ ... I think as time goes on, there’s not much more to gain from the technology side of golf club manufacturing, building. There are little things we can do but where the massive gains will be is in the athletes.”

Augusta National, playing firm and fast in practice rounds, offers him several theaters for this. He’ll surely drive the 350-yard third hole, He’ll cut the corner over the trees on the left from No. 9 tee, turning the 460-yard valley hole into a pitch-and-putt. He has seen the course enough to conclude it fits his game.

“I certainly believe that to be the case,” he said. “I think there is a place where I do put an expectation value that, yeah, I think I have a good chance to play well here.”

That expectation value does not hold up to his Masters history. His best finish came in his last amateur appearance in 2016, when he was one shot off the lead through 35 holes before finishing 21st. His career average over 16 competition rounds here is over par (72.13). Last November, just seven weeks removed from the tour de force at the Open, he was no factor, tying for 34th, 18 shots behind champion Dustin Johnson.

Which introduces the breathing issue. DeChambeau was inexplicably dizzy that week, even submitting to a Covid-19 test (negative) after the second round.This sent him off a four-to-five month medical journey: CT scans, X-rays, carotid tests, ultrasound heart tests, sinuses, infections. All of them clean.

“We never measured oxygen levels or anything like that and there was some (low readings) there,” he said. “And immediately after changing the way I was breathing, the way I was feeling that day from breathing, it took it out.”

His performance this winter bears him out. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational four weeks ago and placed third at the Players Championship the week after that. He leads the FedExCup standings and his Tour-leading 320.8-yard average off the tee is 25 yards beyond the Tour average. All of which is to say, now at 27, he’s never come to Augusta National so primed.

“I don’t know the extent of my talent,” DeChambeau said. “I know that I’m very dedicated and whatever I set my mind to, I’m going to do. And I think over the course of time, if you work hard enough and you’re dedicated enough to something, it’s going to look like extreme talent.”

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