/Masters 2021: Bryson DeChambeau may not break Augusta National, but he could reveal some cracks in golf
Masters 2021: Bryson DeChambeau may not break Augusta National, but he could reveal some cracks in golf

Masters 2021: Bryson DeChambeau may not break Augusta National, but he could reveal some cracks in golf

There are a handful of specific and hotly-contested debates in the golf world right now that have yet to reach a decisive endpoint. Naturally, the most disruptive player in the sport since Tiger Woods seems to encompass them all.

When Bryson DeChambeau claimed last fall that Augusta National Golf Club played as a par 68 for him, he intentionally corked the pressure chamber you have to live in when it comes to golf’s most prestigious event. In doing so, he also enraged a certain subsection of golf fans. By lowering his ostensible average score, he raised expectations for the rest of his career when it comes to performing at a place where, to date, he has yet to perform that well.

Following a bizarre T34 in which he said he was dizzy and possibly even a bit constipated, there are questions going into this year’s Masters. Most notable among them is whether the man who is trying to crack the code of everything he looks at can possibly do so at the old nursery in Augusta, Georgia, where the magic may run even stronger than his will to be the best player in a generation full of great ones.

Here is an non-exhaustive list of peculiar traits about DeChambeau on the golf course that have at least raised an eyebrow or two about whether he’s upending the natural order of golf and its future.

  • He studies greens books like Bible scholars study ancient scrolls,
  • He locks his arm onto his putter, a move Rory McIlroy noted after the U.S. Open.
  • He is trying to live at 210 miles per hour with his ball speed off the tee.
  • He carries long irons just in case.
  • He is presumably trying to eliminate hitting long irons.
  • He plays clubs that are all the same length.
  • He is taking heretofore unfathomable lines with his driver.
  • He has forced the PGA Tour to put internal out of bounds into play at multiple events.

Can DeChambeau overturn Augusta National with this skill set, and if so, will he upend the sport in the process?

If DeChambeau winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot was an inflection point after which the USGA and R&A made their strongest joint statement to date about reining in the equipment arms race, then what manner of debate and rhetoric be engendered by him shooting 22 under at a Masters and winning by seven?

Green-reading books are famously not allowed at Augusta National, and that’s one theory about why DeChambeau’s best finish at a Masters (in four attempts) remains the T21 he notched as an amateur in 2016. He claims to be unaffected by this reality, but the actual data says this is not true.

“Growing up in college, we didn’t have greens books, and I played well then,” said DeChambeau. “I’ve played well here the last couple years and gotten pretty comfortable with the greens. It is another aspect of it, but at the end of the day, I still go based off of my intuition most of the time. I look at something, I go, ‘OK, I think it looks a little like this.’ The times where I’ve putted best have been where my intuition is matched up with reality, and what it’s actually doing because sometimes they can be wrong. The greens books can be wrong. And that’s what I putted my best, like at Winged Foot, those greens and slopes, there’s no way I could average out all those slopes in the book.”

Another theory is that — I cannot believe I’m saying this — Augusta National is actually too easy for him. His last two wins have come at nasty setups with tough rough that exacerbates his strength advantage because he’s able to slice through it at rates of speed other players cannot and with shorter irons than anyone else plays.

There’s another world in which Augusta is actually too short for him. Again, that sounds insane, but consider what he said after last year’s disappointing finish.

“We’re going to try and work on a golf ball that will fit it a little better with my wedges,” said DeChambeau. “This week I’d hit wedges in. On 1, I hit one and it spun 30 feet back and off the green. I can’t hit anything less than what I did. It was a 110‑yard shot, and I took it back halfway and through and went through, and it spun back 30 feet. I’ve got to work on some ball stuff. I’ve gone through the whole club scenario. That’s as much as I can do there. So hopefully we can come up with a ball that will do some more things that will be helpful.”

Half the on-course characteristics that DeChambeau employs (listed above) may either be illegal or impossible 20 years from now. And somewhat ironically, DeChambeau winning a Masters may accelerate them into extinction.

But that begs the question: Can he actually win a Masters? Based on what he’s been able to do and how Augusta sets up for him, it seems like an inevitability. However, you could create a hall of fame filled with golfers for whom a green jacket appeared an inevitability that never actually hung one in their closet.

I do hope DeChambeau can tame the magic running through that place, though. I hope he can redirect whatever it is about Augusta that makes you feel like you are outside of your own body into a weekend run that nobody will ever forget. I hope he brings No. 13 to its knees and — in a moment of pure hubris — tries to drive the 18th green.

Here’s why.

Bryson DeChambeau winning Augusta National remains the most combustible scenario in the game, and thus, one worthy of our rooting interest.

For all the chatter about the Big Boy trying to break everything he sees, winning Augusta dramatically and by a wide margin would reverberate up and down the sport for decades. Because he’s innovative and brash and loud, a win at Augusta National might not break Bobby Jones’ and Cliff Roberts’ crown jewel, but it might do something more important. It might reveal that the sport of golf and its trajectory as currently constructed has already been broken.

The 2021 Masters begins Thursday, April 8. It will air on Saturday and Sunday on CBS and stream live all week on CBSSports.com and Masters Live.