AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bryson DeChambeau stormed the gates of venerable golf last year, plundering the mannerly landscape with swings at the ball so mighty it felt as if bystanders could pull a muscle just by standing too close to him.
On Tuesday, DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Open champion, roared back into Augusta National Golf Club, and while he is too polite to behave like an anarchist, he could not help but ponder the next stage of the rebellion he has begun.
The entertaining DeChambeau envisioned sinewy 7-foot pro golfers overrunning the tidy links like so many giants in a miniature playground.
“The massive gains will be in athletes, once you get somebody out here that’s a 7-foot-tall human being and they are able to swing a golf club at 145 miles an hour effortlessly,” DeChambeau said. “That’s when things get a little interesting.”
Indeed, what a picture. Especially since dozens of current top PGA Tour golfers are no more than 5-foot-9. The evolution has a ways to go.
As for the 145-mile-an-hour swing speed, consider that DeChambeau leads the PGA Tour at roughly 133 miles an hour. Adding another effortless 12 miles per an hour would most likely produce drives of nearly 400 yards.
“That’s when I’m going to become obsolete, potentially even,” DeChambeau said with a smile.
DeChambeau, 27, pushed out of golf already? A legion of young golf fans — and new golf fans lured to the game by DeChambeau’s brash, brawny style — might faint at the notion that their barrier-smashing hero could ever have an expiration date.
Part of DeChambeau’s charm is how outlandish he thinks, and Tuesday was another example of Bryson going big, as he does with most everything.
Still, there is little doubt that the movement he has spurred is taking hold for real. DeChambeau mentioned that he saw one of the young golfers entered in Augusta National’s Drive, Chip and Putt contest on Sunday mimicking the over-the-top swing sequence of the long-drive champion Kyle Berkshire. Or was he imitating DeChambeau?
“I’ve had numerous college kids DM me on Instagram and ask me: ‘How do I get stronger? How do I get faster?’” DeChambeau said. “So you’re already starting to see it through — from collegiate level all the way to junior golf level.”
He left out the pro level, where Rory McIlroy recently conceded that he messed up his swing this spring trying to emulate DeChambeau to gain more yards off the tee. Keep in mind that McIlroy ranks second on the PGA Tour in driving distance and was already considerably longer than most of his rivals, save one.
But DeChambeau has vexed the competition almost as much as he has energized once-sleepy golf galleries. Now, fans at tournaments start cheering as soon as DeChambeau is within 50 yards of a tee, eager to see what feat of strength and timing he might unveil next.
“It won’t stop; there’s just no way it will stop,” DeChambeau said. “It’s good for the game, too. You’re making it more inclusive to everybody when you’re doing that.”
Last year, it was a 48-inch driver, the longest allowed in the rules. DeChambeau never used the club, but he did struggle to overpower the course and finished tied for 34th. This year, it’s a prototype Cobra driver with a new design and technology in the head and face of the club.
Like any good performer who wants to keep his audience guessing, DeChambeau would say only so much about the new arrow in his quiver.
“Obviously there’s something in the bag this week that’s very helpful — I won’t go into specifics of it,” he said. “But just know this has been a few years in the making, and I’m very excited for it. Whether it helps me perform at a higher level, I’m not sure, because it’s golf and you never know what happens.”
But when asked which Augusta National holes he might approach differently because of distance he has gained off the tee, DeChambeau started talking about flying a drive over the trees on the right of the first hole, then started ticking off other possible targets. In a matter of seconds, he had mentioned five additional holes that might be vulnerable.
DeChambeau has yet to conquer Augusta National’s devilish greens, and during last year’s Masters he also alluded to unspecified health issues, including dizziness. Staying in character, when asked if he was feeling better this week, DeChambeau delivered a response that was rich and technical.
“It took about four or five months to figure out what it was,” he said. “We went through CT scans, X-rays, cardioid measurement. We had ultrasound on my heart, we had measurement of the blood vessels on my neck. You name it, we did it — sinus, CT scan measurements, infection checks and everything. And we couldn’t find anything.”
DeChambeau fans can relax, because his revolution is still on schedule. Apparently, the last things doctors checked were DeChambeau’s brain oxygen levels because, he said, “The brain was stressed.”
New breathing techniques were introduced and the illness disappeared like magic.
“It literally just went away,” DeChambeau said, shrugging his shoulders and turning his palms upward.
On to the next adventure.