AUGUSTA, Ga. – Striding to the 16th tee, chest out, shoulders back, Bryson DeChambeau eyed his swing coach, Chris Como, and began gesturing with his hands.
“It’s spinning too much,” he said, frustrated. “I’m losing like 30 or 40 yards.”
To be clear, DeChambeau wasn’t bunting it around Augusta National on Monday. In the first Masters practice round that was open to media members, golf’s biggest bopper routinely carried the ball over 325 yards, missed only one fairway and hit nothing more than a 7-iron into the green.
And yet …
“I just wish the spin rate was a little down,” he lamented.
That’s why he was in the practice area afterward, pounding driver, dialing it in, potentially endangering our media building at the back of the range. Indeed, four green jackets stood at the window, watching as Bryson’s Big Blasts landed about 10 yards away.
Whether Bryson will break Augusta is the leading pre-tournament storyline at this Masters unlike any other. The course is still standing after this nine-hole practice round, but there are areas he’s at least bending to his will. On the back nine with Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and Fred Couples, DeChambeau left himself only a pitching wedge into the 11th green – the same club Woods hit during his historic romp in 1997.
On 13, DeChambeau took three mighty lashes to find his best sight line. All of them found the fairway, the deepest one leaving him just a pitching wedge into the par 5.
Other towering draws on Nos. 14, 15 and 17 required no more than a short-iron approach. Even his lone missed fairway, on 18, offered him a clear window to the green after he blew it over the left fairway bunker.
His longest yardage into a par 4 or par 5 on Monday: 185. Little wonder he’s viewing the course as a par 67.
“Obviously the length, I’ve had to relearn the golf course,” he said. “There’s so many holes that play so differently for me.”
But there are some limits to his aerial attack, even if they’re self-imposed. After his U.S. Open blowout, DeChambeau suggested he was ready to explore the next frontier: a 48-inch driver, the longest allowed under the Rules of Golf. At home, he’s been training and experimenting, trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible, gleefully updating his progress on social media. Some of the numbers have been utterly ridiculous – a ball speed exceeding 210 mph, a total distance of 400-plus yards – but that nuclear driver isn’t yet ready for competition.
“It’s not right,” he said. “I won’t use it until it’s right. Not everything I do works.”
And then: “There’s always the next Masters, always other tournaments to use it at. Not every rabbit hole 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.”
So this week, at least, DeChambeau will stick with his 45 ½-inch driver. He’s trying to dial it in for tournament play at 4 ½ degrees, since the 5-degree model is spinning too much. At roughly 3,000 rpm (as opposed to the 2,000 he’s aiming for), he’s costing himself roughly 20 yards of distance. With the proper setting and spin, he’s looking at a 350-yard carry.
“All my misses have been pretty straight, as you guys have seen, and I want to keep it that way,” he said. “I’ll take hitting it straight with a little more spin. … But if I get that spin to 2,000, I can do some things out here that are pretty cool.”
As if his distance advantage wasn’t significant enough.