Bryson DeChambeau baffled by Augusta but could still be a Major force this year

After golf’s biggest hitter came up short at the Masters, we look at his hopes of challenging for victory in the other three Majors of 2021

The original version of Bryson DeChambeau did quite well on his early visits to the Masters. He was Low Amateur when tied 21st in a highly-promising debut in 2016 and took the first-round lead via a 66 on his second start there as a pro.

But BDC 2.0 has malfunctioned horribly.

Beefing himself up for the 2020 season in a bid to launch tee shots incomprehensible distances, DeChambeau's scientific approach has had several great successes.

His deep-thinking strategies and computations played a big part in him winning the US Open in September. And his prodigious hitting and precise calculations contributed to a recent victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But if there's one place where trying to conquer art with science falls flat, it's Augusta National.

To DeChambeau's credit, he's well aware of it.

Winner Hideki Matsuyama had just nine bogeys on his card over the four gruelling days of this year's Masters. DeChambeau racked up 12 and, more importantly, four double bogeys. That's 20 shots frittered away: far too many to contend.

It was a similar story in much easier conditions in 2020: Bryson swallowed 11 bogeys, two doubles and a triple.

In the last two Masters he's finished a combined 33 shots behind the winner. It makes his pre-tournament statement ahead of last November's Masters that par for him there would now be 67 look ridiculous.

On those figures, he should be 40-under. The reality is that his last eight rounds have added up to 3-over. You do the math, Bryson; that's a miscalculation of 43 strokes.

So why does Augusta bamboozle him?

For starters, the course's undulations don't lend themself to a robust scientific approach.

"I need to understand how the ball flies off of downhill slopes into uphill greens, and conversely uphill slopes into downhill greens, and all of the above," he said after Thursday's first-round 76.

"We just can't calculate and adjust the numbers very well, and the wind is pretty tricky out here. The greens are bouncing pretty hard."

And when asked if he ever sees downhill lies to uphill greens anywhere else on Tour, the 27-year-old American responded: "Not very often. It's just at Augusta. That's why I don't have a problem anywhere else."

Another potential stumbling block is presented by the treacherous putting surfaces. Green-reading books are famously not allowed at Augusta National, again putting an emphasis on feel rather than numbers.

His thoughts were best summed up when answering a perceptive question halfway through this year's tournament about Augusta presenting his biggest analytical challenge.

"It's my biggest match for sure," he conceded. "I mean, not having the help that sometimes I have on the golf course at other venues with greens books and not having the calibration tools that I usually use, it's definitely a test and something I'm willing to stand up to and try and face the challenge and try and conquer it. It's an interesting challenge for me."

His battle to get to grips with Augusta will have to wait another 12 months but, in the meantime, he has three more Majors to go at in 2021. That includes the defence of his US Open crown.

Here, Planet Sport Golf examines his hopes at this year's venues - Kiawah Island, Torrey Pines and Royal St. George's.

PGA Championship - Kiawah Island

DeChambeau's best odds: 14/1 Paddy Power

Record at the PGA Championship

2017: T33 (Quail Hollow, North Carolina)

2018: MC (Bellerive, Missouri)

2019: MC (Bethpage State Park, New York)

2020: T4 (Harding Park, California)

After a decent debut at Quail Hollow, DeChambeau struggled badly on his next two PGA Championship starts, failing to break 70 and missing the cut at both Bellerive and Bethpage.

But his performance at Harding Park in California last year was a big breakthrough. At the time it was his first top 10 in a Major and his fourth place - achieved with a pair of 66s on the weekend - definitely played a part in giving him the confidence to go out and win the US Open just a month later at Winged Foot.

This year's venue could suit him too. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is a lengthy 7,848 yards.

When Rory McIlroy won the 2012 PGA Championship there, the Northern Irishman ranked 1st for Driving Distance.

DeChambeau will surely have taken note that blasting the ball far can be a key ingredient to success on the coastal South Carolina layout.

Add in a good record at Pete Dye courses and this must represent an excellent chance.

US Open - Torrey Pines

DeChambeau's best odds: 14/1 Skybet

Record at the US Open

2015: Missed cut (Chambers Bay, Washington)

2016: T15 (Oakmont, Pennsylvania)

2017: Missed cut (Erin Hills, Wisconsin)

2018: T25 (Shinnecock, New York)

2019: T35 (Pebble Beach, California)

2020: WON (Winged Foot)

There were signs of promise in DeChambeau's US Open record before he landed the big one at Winged Foot.

A top 15 at Oakmont in 2016 (ninth after 54 holes) remained his best Major finish until he took T4 in the 2020 PGA Championship while a top 25 at Shinnecock was another decent effort.

The theory that you needed to be an accurate player to thrive in US Opens has been gazumped in the last decade or more, with a series of big hitters prevailing.

Why? Just about everyone misses fairways and longer, stronger players have greater power to hit out of thick rough and are doing so with more lofted clubs due to advancing their drives further down the fairway.

Bryson is a superb player from the rough and his tactic at Winged Foot was to smash it miles and not be afraid of finding the long stuff. It worked a treat.

Record at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open

2017: Missed cut

2018: Missed cut

Okay, Torrey Pines South hasn't yet been kind to him and his two missed cuts might contribute to his odds, 14/1, being a little longer than expected.

But… his two poor results were before BDC 2.0 was invented. And most of those who did well in the 2008 US Open played there had poor records at the regular PGA Tour event (Farmers Insurance Open) contested at the San Diego venue in January.

With Torrey Pines predicted to be set up to favour big hitters - long and with significant rough - DeChambeau will have the conditions to thrive.

Open Championship - Royal St. George's

DeChambeau's best odds: 18/1 bet365

Record at the Open Championship

2017: Missed cut (Royal Birkdale, England)

2018: T51 (Carnoustie, Scotland)

2019: Missed cut (Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland)

2020: No tournament

Given his thirst for learning, DeChambeau will enjoy trying to solve the riddle of links golf. But that doesn't mean to say he'll come up with the right answers.

It's been a struggle so far and he hasn't made the top 50 in three attempts.

What's more, this year's venue, Royal St. George's, is known for being the one on the Open rota where quirky bounces are most prevalent. That could cause Bryson's brow to furrow.

However, Americans have an almost unexpected record of excellence in Open Championships so it's dangerous to rule him out too hastily.

Conclusion

While it seems a stretch to expect a win at Royal St. George's, it's easy to think that DeChambeau has two excellent chances of winning or at least contending heavily in the remaining two American Majors.

They're on two long courses and big hitting has proven to be a good recipe on both.

Augusta may have bamboozled him again but Kiawah Island and Torrey Pines South will surely yield more easily to his combination of strength and science.

READ MORE: How and why did Hideki Matsuyama win the 2021 Masters

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