Reflecting On Bryson DeChambeau’s 2020: Has He Really Changed Golf?

Let’s face it: Not everyone is a fan of Bryson DeChambeau. Or, at the very least, the 27-year old’s ‘revolutionary’ tactics and focus on his physique divide opinion. Regardless, whatever it is that DeChambea is trying to say about the game of golf is worth hearing; the results he has achieved in a short space of time make that the case. But is the big-hitting player truly changing the game? Or is he just an outlier who will continue to play his own game while the rest of golf moves at its own pace? Looking back at 2020, the year that DeChambeau broke out (at least in the eyes of the media), those questions are still not easy to answer.

The first thing that we should clearly stress is that the story of Bryson DeChambeau is a bit more complex than is sometimes portrayed in the media. Sure, the Californian did emerge in the late spring bulked up (he gained about 40lbs) and with enough power to hit the ball further than anyone has managed before. But it is not as if he came from obscurity. DeChambeau was pinpointed for stardom as a young amateur and throughout his college years. In 2015 became only the third player in history to win the NCAA Division 1 Championship and US Amateur Open in the same year. The other two men to complete that feat? Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

DeChambeau had a decent career before bulking up
DeChambeau’s PGA Tour record, while not spectacular, was also very good before his muscle gain. 2019 was something of a down year, but he won five PGA Tour titles across 2017 and 2018. That glut of titles alone is enough to match the record of someone like Rickie Fowler, who has had a professional career more than three times as long as DeChambeau. The point we are making is that DeChambeau did not suddenly burst onto the scene when winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July; he had plenty of success before that.

What we do know, however, is that DeChambeau failed to make an impact in the Majors during the ‘pre-bulk’ years of his career. His best performance was finishing tied for 15th in the 2016 US Open (his first as a professional). So, this year, where he won the US Open, finished 4th in the PGA and 32nd in the Masters (more on that later) was obviously a massive improvement.

But DeChambeau’s stats tell us a bit more about his game. Yes, leading the PGA in driving distance is impressive, and that is going to have a knock-on effect to other areas for DeChambeau. For instance, that big drive also helps him lead the PGA in eagles. But we can also see he is one of the best at his approach to the green (6th in the PGA) and around the green (13th in the PGA). Those elements help DeChambeau make up for this low placing in terms of driving accuracy (147th in the PGA). But there are also areas where DeChambeau needs fast improvement if he is to consistently challenge at the top of golf, including playing out of the bunk and improving on his putting.

Ups and downs at the Masters for DeChambeau
So, what happened at Augusta last month, then? DeChambeau went into the tournament as the betting favourite, but finished tied-32nd. Again, it was a little bit more complex than saying DeChambeau was ‘found out’ by Augusta. The man hit 18 birdies and an eagle, looking like he held the iconic course in the palm of his hand at times. But 18 dropped shots also tells a story. DeChambeau talked about mistakes, but often those mistakes were in his shot selection rather than execution. If you look back at his double-bogey seven at the 13th in Round 1, the same sort of calamity would never have befallen a Woods or a Nicklaus.

DeChambeau won’t be in action again until January, and he has hinted that he will be going back to the drawing board after the mixed bag at Augusta. And that, perhaps, is what wider media coverage misses about “The Scientist”. DeChambeau is not a one-dimensional thinker, and he will not be thinking about how he can drive the ball further. You can guarantee he will be looking at how to improve his shot selection, his putting average, his bunker play. That obsession with improvement is arguably what makes DeChambeau something of a revolutionary; not the big swing. If he can put all those elements together during his time off, then 2021 might be even more explosive for the US Open champion.

4 thoughts on “Reflecting On Bryson DeChambeau’s 2020: Has He Really Changed Golf?”

  1. Very good article and I completely agree with this ‘assessment.’ I believe golf can be so unpredictable at times that this probably frustrates yet intrigued BD.

    He calculates his shots so when he hits a bunker he’s perplexed. So then he goes and works on his bunker play then plays a round and he’s dead on an never hits a bunker. But then you mentioned his shot selection.
    Perhaps that was his glaring weakness in the Masters round. But then the unpredictable happens and he’s dead on despite a poor selection and doesn’t realize he simply got lucky.

    I dunno. But I certainly agree if he can find a way to harness those aspects, accepting the unpredictable despite calculating his shots, improving his putting, then he will certainly be force on the tour even more than before.

  2. It may just be my psychobable in some ways by I suspect at this point in his LIFE… Bryson is not as mature as Jack or Tiger at equal ages… He stays in his head a great deal even over golf shots and as long as things are going on schedule, he can keep it together… He is getting mentally tougher with each outing I believe… Now, he is extremely bright, but he is still trying to prove this brightness to the rest of the world at this point. Some think he is headed for a crash landing… And he may be… If he gets hurt lifting heavy weights as he obviously has done, it could spell the end…. I played Division I football in college and I got hurt worse in the weight room than I did on the field on two occassions… Even with the talent my body would not have lasted another single year playing football… I can tell you playing golf for a living is tough on your body even though it is not a collision sport, there is tremndous strain put on the back and hips…. If he does not sustain a major lifting injury in the next couple of years and he gets more tournament experience under the microscope (where he put himself by crushing everyone at the US Open), he will begin to settle down as time goes forward regardless of his progress… Because after winning the US Open running away….everyone knows he can do that… I think winning his first major like that will benefit him as much as it hurts him… I believe he will run away and hide with a couple of major championships… He will have to face the fire when he gets close in another major and there are others around him on the leaderboard to the end… He just isn’t as mentally tough as Tiger was and his game developed in the era Tiger brought in…. Tiger had so much REAL confidence on the golf course, everybody was playing for 2nd for a while… The other players said that out loud on occasion…. Tiger benefited from other tour players confidence in HIM.. The guys nowadays will never say that…They learned not to say it from Tiger… Young guys winning everywhere… Remember the biggest game in golf is between your ears if you have that kind of talent… Bryson has a good game plan although getting that large and powerful has its own set of problems, I suspect he will moderate some in the coming years… He will have deal with some nagging injuries if he stays that big… He is explosive anyway so he will always be long… He matured late physically as well as he is maturing later emotionally… Just what I believe about and I like him… For some reason, his rhetoric turns some people off… But I love his enthusiasm… It will be interesting. He is good for that game just as Spieth, Reed, DJ, Justin Thomas, Keopka, Rory….. etc etc….

  3. Bryson has a reputation for being analytical, and for pushing boundaries. But it isn’t really new to try to bulk up to hit it further. He’s taking it a bit further, but clearly players have been working out in the gym for some time now, so it’s not like he invented anything.

    High level athletic activity is often synonymous with injury. Pitching baseball is notorious for this, and it’s been said that only people with freakish bodies have the ability to sustain multi-year professional careers at it.

    Bryson does alot of very interesting things, and it’s fun to see someone just plunge into his own ideas without worrying about looking strange or different. But he’s pushing his body so far that I think he is at substantially greater risk of injury than his peers. So even if he is taking an approach that is fundamentally different than others, I don’t think it will change golf, because I don’t think it’s sustainable from a physical conditioning and injury standpoint.

    While I know Phil Mickelson has probably worked very hard on fitness during periods of his career, one only compare his body habitus to Tiger’s during their respective primes to conclude that Phil worked out alot less than Tiger did. Years later, it sure seems as if Phil’s body has held up better and proven more durable than Tiger’s. I don’t think that’s just bad luck for Tiger. I think his training regime was too extreme for his body type and it may have shortened his career.

    It will be interesting to watch the career of the current fitness buffs, including Bryson, Koepka, McIlroy, et al, to see how well they age.

  4. FYI. Regarding, “In 2015 became only the third player in history to win the NCAA Division 1 Championship and US Amateur Open in the same year. The other two men to complete that feat? Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.”

    The list is 5 players, not 3: Phil Mickelson and Ryan Moore also won US Amateur and NCAA titles in the same year.

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