The golf world has seen nothing like Bryson DeChambeau. During the break in the 2020 PGA season from March 13 to June 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DeChambeau’s dietary regimen, coupled with an intense workout routine, led to him gaining nearly 20 pounds in an attempt to enhance his greatest strength — driving distance.
So far in the 2020 season, DeChambeau has had an otherworldly average driving distance of 344.4 yards, at least 10 yards more than any player on the season; it will be the largest gap ever in a stat that has existed since 1980, if he is able to keep it up. Not all of this gain can be attributed to his quarantine transformation, as he already led the tour in driving average in the 2019-20 season with 322.1 yards per drive. He was a power hitter in 2018 too, sneaking into the top 25 in the tour with a driving average of 305.7 yards.
This week is the Masters, the most important annual tournament in golf. The tournament, which is held at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., was pushed from its usual April date to November due to COVID-19. Augusta National is a power hitter’s delight, with many of the game’s biggest hitters winning there in recent years. Bubba Watson won his first Masters in 2012, at a time when he too held a substantial lead over the rest of the Tour in driving distance. In 2012, he averaged 315.5 yards off the tee, clearing everybody else by at least 3.9 yards on average. While a margin of 3.9 seems small compared to DeChambeau’s 10.6-yard margin this season, no driving distance leader between 2013 and 2020 was able to match Watson’s lead, as hitters have become more powerful than ever in the past decade. Watson was able to overcome Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff in that year’s Masters, a competitor who he outdrove by more than fifteen yards over the course of that season.
The Masters is also an opportunity for players to try new methods of hitting the ball further than they have ever before, as evidenced by Phil Mickelson’s decision to use a 47.5” driver for this year’s tournament, which is between two and four inches longer than the standard driver, in an attempt to maximize distance off the tee. Mickelson’s decision to use a driver near the maximum length allowable demonstrates the risks players are willing to make to earn a prestigious green jacket, something which the legendary Mickelson hasn’t won since 2010.
Players can make numerous changes to their game in attempts to maximize distance and chances to win at Augusta, with Masters champions of the past decade such as Mickelson and Watson, as well as 2013 runner-up Padraig Harrington, besting the field average by double digits per hole over the 72 holes on the way to their successful weeks, without much success in driving accuracy or sand saves. Some tweaks are simple, like Mickelson using a longer driver, or a player adding a wood to the bag instead of an extra wedge, giving more versatility from longer distances on the 7,475 yard course, especially compared to the 7,251 yards from the PGA Championship this year at Harding Park.
It’s easy for a player to make a minor tweak to a bag to maximize their chances for this one tournament. But DeChambeau has been building up for this all year. His added 20 pounds gives him power and versatility at every tournament on the calendar, not just the Masters. The Masters is perfectly suited for this approach, as he can use a driver and set of clubs with which he feels comfortable, while still being able to outdrive the field and reach the greens from further than the rest of the field.In a tournament with a whopping 92 participants, boldly claiming that DeChambeau will be the presumptive champion of this prestigious tournament is foolish. However, DeChambeau’s otherworldly power indicates that he is well ahead of the field in preparation for the Masters, and his 344.4 driving average could carry him to victory in Augusta.
Jake Wexelblatt is a junior in the College. Deja Vu All Over Again appears online every other week.