Tinkering DeChambeau looking for more distance


AUGUSTA, Ga. — In Monday’s practice round at Augusta National Golf Club, Bryson DeChambeau consistently hit his tee shots 20 yards past Justin Thomas, 40 yards by five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods and, well, even farther past 1992 champ Fred Couples.

The scary part? DeChambeau said he can hit it even farther on the world’s most famous golf course with a couple of adjustments before Thursday’s opening round.

On the 16th tee box, DeChambeau complained to his swing coach, Chris Como, that he was losing 30 to 40 yards on his drives because his spin rate was too high.

After the nine-hole practice round, DeChambeau said if he reduces his spin rate from about 3,000 rpm to 2,000 rpm on his tee shots, he’ll be able to do “pretty cool” things at the Masters this week.

“It’s been fun taking some unique lines, for sure,” DeChambeau said. “Obviously, with the length, I’ve had to relearn the golf course. There’s so many holes that play so differently for me, especially with this wind. The course is a little soft right now, but I’m sure it’ll firm up as the week goes on.”

DeChambeau had drives of more than 340 yards on both par-5 holes on the second nine and hit pitching wedge into both greens.

“Hitting a pitching wedge into 13 today was kind of fun,” he said. “I asked Tiger what he hit on 11 [while winning his first green jacket in 1997] and he said pitching wedge. That’s what I hit today.”

Even more alarming for the rest of the field: While playing the second nine, DeChambeau didn’t miss a fairway until he hooked his tee shot on the par-4, 465-yard 18th hole. His ball ended up about 40 yards to the left — and well past the two bunkers at the left elbow. He had a clear second shot, however, and knocked his ball on the green from about 160 yards.

DeChambeau’s additional length has made him the early betting favorite to win his first green jacket and second major championship this year, after winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September.

“I think it’s been impressive for sure, there’s no doubt,” Patrick Cantlay said. “I think we’ll see, but I think this place probably fits it about as good as any place. I think definitely throughout the history of golf, the guys that have hit it the farthest at that period of time have had an advantage and have been able to play really well. So it doesn’t surprise me that he’s hitting it very far, much farther than other guys, that he’s having success. So more power to him, and I think more people will try and do that.”

DeChambeau said he probably won’t use a 48-inch driver, the maximum length allowed under the Rules of Golf, which he tinkered with over the past month. He said he’ll probably stick with a 45 ½-inch shaft this week.

“We’re doing that right now, actually,” DeChambeau said, on his process of choosing a driver length. “This is a final push to see if it’ll work. If not, there’s always the next Masters, always other tournaments to use it at. Not every rabbit hole I go down works, just the way life works. The nice part is I’ve learned to pull myself out of those rabbit holes and go back to my level playing field pretty nicely.”

DeChambeau was tied for the opening-round lead at the Masters last season after firing a 66. He finished in a tie for 29th after faltering from there. He hasn’t finished in the top 20 in three starts at Augusta National.

“I know where I need to go,” he said. “It’s mainly putting and getting comfortable with that. The length is great, but it’s still about wedging and putting around here. If you don’t do that well, you’re not going to win.”

Woods, the defending Masters champion, has played in only six events since the Tour restarted after the COVID-19 shutdown. He most recently missed the cut at the U.S. Open in September and tied for 72nd at the Zozo Championship.

Woods’ game seemed to be in form in the practice round, although he was a little erratic off the tee. He knocked his second shot to about a foot on No. 11 for birdie.

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