PGA Tour's longest driver will emphasize approach shots to rewrite a so-so Masters record and win what he calls his 'next goal'
As someone who is regarded as a golf revolutionary of sorts because of his analytical approach to the game, long-driving Bryson DeChambeau will bring a decidedly practical view to this week’s Masters Tournament.
Sure, he will seek to press his advantage when he steps onto any tee with driver in hand at Augusta National, but DeChambeau knows that to win, he will have to be precise with his approach shots.
“I’m going to be focusing mainly on how I hit iron shots into greens that give me the best ability to make birdie,” he said Tuesday during his pre-tournament news conference at the club. DeChambeau emphasized hitting into the “correct quadrants on greens” as his path toward victory.
That’s not to say that he won’t elicit plenty of oohs and aahs from the patrons, who will be limited to an undisclosed number because of COVID-19 concerns, when he rips driver at his PGA Tour-leading 133 mph.
There’s a school of thought that Augusta National, despite its 7,475-yard length and roller-coaster greens, should be a par-68 course for DeChambeau, who leads the PGA Tour at 320.8 yards per drive. It’s practically a given that he views the par 5s as de facto par 4s this week. But that’s not where he hopes to make his move up the leaderboard.
“I’m looking for best opportunities to attack the par 4s to make birdies," he said.
One such tactic: Hitting his tee shot down the right side at No. 1, over the loblolly pines, to leave perhaps as little as 9-iron into the uphill 445-yard par 4. He also mentioned biting off the right side of the dogleg at the par-4 11th, too.
“I can give myself the most advantages all day long,” he said, “but if I don’t go out there and execute, it doesn’t matter.”
DeChambeau has compiled a mediocre record in four previous visits to Augusta National. He has yet to beat his T-21 result in 2016, his debut, when he was low amateur after having won the 2015 NCAA and U.S. Amateur titles. He tied for 34th in the 2020 Masters, which was postponed until November because of the pandemic.
Asked whether he should play Augusta National well, DeChambeau hesitated, shifting back and forth in his seat at the club’s media center, before answering.
“I think I have a good chance to play well here,” he said with caution. “There are certain holes out here where length helps tremendously. That’s the most important thing about Augusta National: You have to have every facet of your game working really well.”
DeChambeau knows that the 85th Masters will present a different test than the softer conditions of six months ago, when shots stopped in places where they normally would have trickled away. Dustin Johnson took advantage of those conditions, posting a tournament-record 20-under 268 score to win by five strokes.
“The golf course is going to play differently,” DeChambeau said, “but there are opportunities where the ball will roll out. One of them is No. 2 [a downhill, dogleg-left 575-yard par 5]. There are going to be numerous instances where it is playing differently. I love firm, fast golf courses. It’s going to test every facet of your game. The greens are already firm and fast. I’ve never seen it this fast, this quick, this early.”
DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Open champion and No. 5-ranked player in the world, enjoyed a strong recent Florida Swing. After a T-22 at the WGC Workday, he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational before a T-3 at the Players. DeChambeau lost in the Round of 64 at the recent WGC Match Play.
He comes into this week at Augusta National eager to check off another career goal.
“This has been on my radar since I was a kid,” said the 27-year-old DeChambeau, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour. “Now that I have won the U.S. Open, this is my next goal, and I will not stop.”
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