Augusta National Golf Club is a place where fairytales come true, and the first-ever November U.S. Masters did not disappoint.
But in every fairytale comes a villain, and this year that was none other than Bryson DeChambeau, the muscle-pumping protein-glugging Incredible Hulk of golf.
You would expect following his U.S. Open win at Winged Foot in September the 27-year-old would have approached Augusta with quiet confidence.
But he could only see green.
In the pre-round press conferences, the Hulk’s veins began popping as his body deepened to the shade of Pantone 342.
DeChambeau was angry and pumped up to win; he could already feel his skin shedding to reveal a tight tailored jacket clinging to him like crocodile scales.
The U.S. Masters was his tournament to lose.
And the golfing scientist did not mince his words: “I’m looking at it as a par 67 for me because I can reach all the par fives in two, no problem. If the conditions stay the way they are, that’s what I feel like par is for me.”
But DeChambeau swiftly added: “That’s not me being big-headed. I can hit it as far as I want to, but it comes down to putting and chipping out here. That is one of the things I think people sometimes struggle to see.”
Yet, despite DeChambeau insisting he was not arrogant, he had already left a trail of destruction.
Claiming Augusta as a par 67 is to insult every single U.S. Masters Champion since the tournament’s inception in 1934.
No player before this year had ever gone around Augusta in a total of 268 for four rounds.
The tournament record was 270 (-18) initially set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
Johnson vs DeChambeau
Ironically though, Augusta proved a par 67 for Dustin Johnson, who calmly plotted his way to his first green jacket.
But DeChambeau had on his terms a disappointing week.
Following an opening-round 70 (-2), followed by a 74 (+2), the bookies’ favourite was struggling to make the cut.
He slipped through and then managed to slither up the leaderboard to finish T34 on 286 (-2).
Now, that is not a bad result, particularly as it earned DeChambeau a $64,975 paycheque.
But, on none of his four rounds did DeChambeau even come close to shooting his promised 67.
His best score was 69 (-3) on Saturday, the day Johnson shot an impressive 65 (-7), gaining a four-shot lead.
Undeniably, there was a lot of hype surrounding DeChambeau in the lead up to the U.S. Masters.
Over the last year, the American had gained 18kgs (40lbs) in weight and 20yds in driving distance, becoming the PGA Tour’s longest hitter.
He had already overpowered Winged Foot with his impressive drives, and everyone anticipated he might do the same at Augusta.
But Johnson averages 321.4yds off the tee, 16.4yds behind DeChambeau, ranking him sixth on the PGA Tour for driving distance.
However, the difference between Johnson and DeChambeau, winning and losing was the way they handled the course.
At 6ft 4in tall Johnson seems comfortable with his power, effortlessly hitting the ball more than 300yds.
Crucially he will hit less club off the tee to finish in a better spot than if he took driver.
However, DeChambeau is a good three inches shorter than Johnson and relies more on strength to carry the ball further.
He is still adjusting to this new distance, playing what many would term “boy golf,” hitting the ball as far as possible without thinking.
But with distance comes a reduced margin for error, as a slight draw will go much further left the longer you hit it.
In the 2019 season, DeChambeau hit 65.02% fairways, but this has since dropped to 58.33%.
DeChambeau would argue he leads strokes gained off the tee, reaping more than one shot per round over his rivals.
However, the world number seven felt unwell last week and had to take a coronavirus test on Friday, which was negative.
DeChambeau said: “I came out yesterday and was fine for the most part. But as I kept going through the round, I started getting a little dizzy.”
He added: “I just feel kind of dull and numb out there, just not fully aware of everything, and making some silly, silly mistakes for sure.”
Whatever the cause, DeChambeau certainly made some judgement errors, scoring two double bogies and one triple throughout the four rounds.
Whereas, Johnson managed to keep the big numbers off his card.
Langer Saves the Day
If DeChambeau was the villain of the U.S. Masters, disappointing fans, then 63-year-old Bernhard Langer is our hero.
The 1985 and 1993 U.S. Masters winner became the oldest player to ever make the cut in the tournament and eventually beat DeChambeau by one stroke.
Averaging just 260yds off the tee, Langer began each of the 56 par fours and fives nearly 80yds behind the young American.
However, the Champions Tour player’s strengths lied in his ability to remain calm and play within himself.
Ranked first on the PGA Tour for driving accuracy, Langer was able to hit 87.5% of fairways.
Then when he couldn’t reach the green, he would lay-up and rely on his pitching to get the ball close.
While the golf industry constantly worries about driving distance, Langer proved the sport is about much more.
The adage of keeping the ball in play and having a good short game proved paramount to his success.
However, Langer was impressed with DeChambeau and Charl Schwartzel’s long-hitting when he played with them in the final round.
He said: “Normally, I play my own game, I don’t even worry about who I’m with and all that, but I was a little bit spectating here and there. I was in awe and just watching how they swing and how hard to hit it. And every once in a while, I had to tell myself ‘go on stop watching and play your game and focus on what you want to do.’”
— The Masters (@TheMasters) November 14, 2020
The highlight of Langer’s week was holing a 63ft birdie putt on the 16th hole on Saturday, one of the best shots in the tournament’s history.
Hopefully, when junior golfers watched this year’s U.S. Masters, they didn’t just want to drive it as far as DeChambeau.
But they also watched the wise soul of Langer and will head straight for the chipping green when courses re-open
Now that sounds like a player destined for the green jacket.