Just over two weeks before Round 1 of the 2020 Masters, a hilarious video of reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau emerged. DeChambeau had just the week before Instagrammed himself carrying a drive 403 yards (albeit with a 20 mile-per-hour wind) and was now being filmed launching golf balls into some ambiguous horizon with AC/DC's Thunderstruck blasting over the speakers.
DeChambeau played the role of a sort of meathead performing for other meatheads who chirped and gawked at his ability to drive the golf ball as far as he could and also at his raspy chortling of how many miles per hour his golf ball was traveling (208 in one part of the video). The entire thing would be some sort of bizarre performance art if only it weren't so earnest. Bryson, because his entire enterprising plan was validated in such a specific way at the U.S. Open, is only going to become more Bryson-like in the months and years to come.
This will be equal parts hilarious and fascinating. Hilarious because his lack of self-awareness will inevitably lead to moments of unintentional comedy (again, watch this). Fellow professional golfer Eddie Pepperell queried whether Bryson was going to get professional wrestler Triple H to caddie for him. That's a good summation of where we're at with all of this. It will also be fascinating because, well, it's been working and is only going to work more if he successfully continues down the path he's on.
DeChambeau is murdering the golf ball. He's averaging 344 yards off the tee this season, which is 22 more yards than he averaged last season, which was 20 yards more than he averaged the previous season. Over the last 12 months, he is the only PGA Tour player who averages over 1 stroke gained per round off the tee, and he's sitting at 1.3 right now. Those look like typos, but they are not. Driving the ball as far as humanly possible is the best way to win a lot on the PGA Tour, and DeChambeau has no plans of stopping.
Add it all up, and DeChambeau and his alleged 48-inch driver are the story heading into Augusta National and the 2020 Masters. I wrote after the U.S. Open that DeChambeau is trying to effectively eliminate one key aspect -- mid- to long-range iron play -- from the sport entirely. Terrifyingly, he's probably going to be able to do that at Augusta. That doesn't mean he'll win, of course, but consider what Jordan Spieth -- no stranger to success at Augusta -- said recently.
"I think it was Boston we were sitting having lunch watching the telecast, and they were showing Bryson. I'm like, 'This guy has to lose the Masters to not win the Masters,'" said Spieth recently. "His fairway ... No. 2, his fairway is 70 yards wide. You get to No. 8, carries the bunker it's 80 yards wide. His fairway on No. 9 ... it's a thousand yards wide. It's one of those things if you're hitting it straight and you're hitting it far, it obviously should be a massive advantage."
DeChambeau recently broke down how far each of his clubs carry, and I wanted to apply those to portray what we might see at Augusta National if he's hitting driver well. To do that, we have to make some assumptions about the driver. It's going to be cold which means the ball won't be flying as far, but certain holes will be into an upslope and certain holes will be downhill (and running). He will also be unsheathing that 48-inch driver so who knows how that will affect his ball flight.
In his most recent event -- the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open -- he averaged 363 yards off the tee. Again, averaged 363 yards. It's a different course and conditions, but it's still instructive. With all those factors in mind, and with the aid of Google Earth, I looked at what kind of club (and yardage) Bryson could be hitting into each hole at Augusta National in two weeks.
Tough opening tee shot, should be able to carry the bunker. Maybe a bit into an upslope.
It all depends on how hard he's able to draw it down the hill here. A 400-yard drive is in play.
A bit risky, but he will likely try to drive the green.
His longest iron of the day?
It's 320 to cover the second bunker up the left side.
Fairly skinny driving hole.
So tough to get it up the hill, but like Spieth said, the landing zone widens.
Can land it anywhere depending on where the pin is and what angle he wants.
Like No. 2, depends on the draw of the ball and how much it's rolling, but he can let it go.
Probably a tough driving hole for him.
His stated goal is to hit it thru 13 into 14. Cut the trees, and he'll have 120-150 in.
He can hit 3-wood and still have a wedge in.
This one will be interesting because he could get it up and over the hill and have the 53-degree in (to 15!)
Just your standard driver-58-degree major championship hole.
It's 345 to carry the left bunkers, but you want to be up the right side.
So that's where we stand. On 15 of the 18 holes, I have him hitting 9-iron or wedge. Only on No. 4 and No. 8 will he need anything from distance. Now, Bryson is not the only player who could accomplish this. He's not the only massive driver of the ball. But this is his entire thing right now. It's what he's laboring toward in ways other players are not. It's what he's become great at doing.
In a recent practice round with Sandy Lyle at Augusta National, DeChambeau more or less hit most of the clubs I stated above. Here's where I had him and what he actually hit, according to co-host of "Inside the Ropes" on SiriusXm PGA Tour Radio, Carl Paulson.
DeChambeau carries three different wedges beyond his pitching wedge so it's unclear which ones the sand wedges reference, but it's clear that he's not going to disappoint this week. These numbers are just a complete joke. He hit 3-wood into the par-4 3rd and carried it past the green. He also hit 3-wood off the tee at No. 13 and still had a 7-iron in. Another 7-iron on No. 8 (which seems impossible), and honestly I don't know that he legitimately needs to carry a 4-iron or even a 5-iron this week.
None of this means he'll slip on an extra beefy green jacket on Sunday, Nov. 15. He'll still have to wedge and putt it as well as maybe ever. But it does mean two things. The first is that he's starting with an advantage over even the best players in this field. And the second is that we might see Augusta National played in ways it has never been played before. The outcome of both of those realities is why what DeChambeau does at the final major of the year is the most-anticipated golf story of 2020.