After his take down of the U.S. Open in September, there was talk heading into the Masters tournament that Bryson DeChambeau would take apart hallowed Augusta National Golf Club and complete a revolution in golf started by his six-stroke victory at Winged Foot.
Well, through 30½ holes, it appears DeChambeau’s revolution will not be televised.
It may not even make the cut.
DeChambeau came into the Masters as the odds-on favorite despite never having finished as a contender in his three previous appearances. Despite having shot only one round in the 60s out of 12, a first-round co-leading 6-under par 66 in 2019.
Overwhelming all of that was DeChambeau’s prodigious length, a product of his much bulked-up new physique and his missionary zeal to reduce this game of feel and touch and craftiness to a science experiment. To reduce it to the atomic level of computer bits of information, so many zeroes and ones.
It may work one day at Augusta. It may yet work Saturday. But the holes are running out, and big, beefy, quirky Bryson finds himself on the wrong side of the cut line that allows the low 50 and ties to play the weekend out of the original field of 92. After 12 holes of his second round, DeChambeau is tied for 61st at 1 over.
There are birdie/eagle holes ahead of him down the stretch and DeChambeau could well and probably should be expected to make the cut. But he didn’t come to Augusta this year to make the cut. He came to prove to a broadly skeptical, arguably disapproving golf world that his approach of weight training and multiple daily protein shakes and launch angles and equal length irons and inelegant-looking one-plane swing is the future of the game.
Maybe it is. But a nearly 90-year old golf course, softer than normal because of the fact this Masters is being played in the fall and exacerbated by buckets of rain that fell on it early this week, a course that is giving up lots of birdies and eagles to others, is not so easily dominated.
Augusta National demands that it be finessed. The genius still inherent in the original Bobby Jones/Alister MacKenzie design is that it will yield good scores to good shots. But it will make you pay dearly if you hit bad ones.
DeChambeau has hit some good shots. He has nine birdies, respectably tied for 16th in the field. But he has hit enough wayward ones to produce some frightfully big scores. The numbers, to which DeChambeau slavishly pays homage, tell the story.
Bryson is first in driving distance as expected (337.9 yards) but tied for 68th in driving accuracy. He’s tied for 60th in greens in regulation. In proximity to the hole, DeChambeau is 85th (45 feet, 9 inches on average). He’s also 76th in scrambling (38.5 percent of recoveries). None of those numbers will help you make the cut, much less a contender.
There are five bogeys on his card plus a double bogey and a dreaded “other.” The double came on the eminently gettable par-5 13th hole Thursday. DeChambeau said with no patrons on the grounds he would try to launch his tee shot on 13 over the trees into the adjacent 14th fairway for a better angle. Geometric, Vulcan-like logic. But DeChambeau wound up in said trees, hacked his second into no man’s land left of the green and kept hacking until he had a 7.
Friday on the drivable 350-yard par-4 third hole, things went further awry. DeChambeau has suffered from a serious case of the hooks this week and on No. 3 he hooked his tee shot left into the longer-than-usual, soggy and dense second cut (the rough). That resulted in a lost ball. It was, to be fair, a bad break. In a normal year he would have drawn a huge gallery, and someone from across the ropes would have probably helped DeChambeau and tournament officials better triangulate on the ball. But that's golf, a game that is often unfair at its core, and them's the breaks.
Then there was another hook. Then a wedge shot over the green. Then another wedge back over. Finally a couple of putts and another 7. As he told the Golf Channel after trudging back to the clubhouse, his game is off.
At the end Friday, before darkness once again forced a suspension of play, DeChambeau’s bomb it approach at last paid off. He flew an air strike off the 13th tee over the mini-forest of tall trees left of the fairway, cutting off a major chunk of the dogleg with a 317-yard drive. That left him just 127 yards to the pin, from where he knocked a wedge pin high to 17 feet, giving DeChambeau an eagle putt when he resumes second-round play Saturday morning.
He needs at least a birdie there and one or two more coming in to make the cut. Contending would then take something super low, like a course-record tying 63 or some such.
So if they’re going to serve DeChambeau’s favorite protein shakes at next April’s Champions Dinner, if there is a reckoning in the game set to take place, Bryson has just over five holes left to do it.
Otherwise, start the revolution without him.