Bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau might change golf like Tiger Woods once did
Remember Tiger Woods?
Remember the way he changed the game, how he was longer and stronger than everyone else and how he left fellow competitors not only in his wake but in awe?
Remember how Tiger’s peers scrambled to copy what he was doing, which was work out like a fiend and become fitter than anyone else in a sport — which in the past was dominated by guys with doughy physiques who drank booze, smoked cigarettes and rarely set alarm clocks for early-morning wake-ups?
The copycat generation Woods spawned has produced the best young players in the game for the past decade-plus, and they’re all physically fit and as committed to their personal trainers as they are to the practice range.
Now, along comes Bryson DeChambeau, a quirky 26-year-old Californian who appears to be on the precipice of changing the course of the game in a similar way to what Woods once did.
All the Rage
Much the way Woods’ peers were asked about him more than they were asked about themselves by reporters, DeChambeau’s peers are being asked about DeChambeau — his 25 pounds of added muscle, increased swing and ball speed, and his sudden Paul Bunyan length off the tee.
Before the COVID-19 crisis shut down the PGA Tour for more than three months in March, the analytical, mad-scientist DeChambeau had already been in the lab quietly working on his transformation.
This is what he told reporters Oct. 6 in Las Vegas: “I’m going to come back next year and look like a different person. You’re going to see some pretty big changes in my body, which is going to be a good thing. [I’m] going to be hitting it a lot further.”
It was after the pandemic pause that the results of DeChambeau’s work showed in such a dramatic way, it was as if Godzilla had just joined the PGA Tour.
First came his tie for third at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in the PGA Tour’s first tournament after 91 days of inactivity. Then came a tie for eighth at the RBC Championship at Hilton Head. Then a tie for sixth at the Travelers Championship.
He was 46-under par in those first three events, then DeChambeau won last week’s Rocket Mortgage at 23-under par, ranking first in the tournament in putting with the best putting numbers of his career and leading in average driving distance at an otherworldly 350 yards.
Suddenly, now everyone wants to be like Bryson.
“Everybody in golf is talking about Bryson,’’ Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee told The Post this past week. “His peers are nonstop talking about Bryson. They’re being asked about Bryson. Everybody in the game is obsessed with what Bryson is doing. It’s turned golf on its ear, and it’s just great for golf.’’
What Chamblee wants the world to know is this: DeChambeau’s transformation goes a lot deeper than the added bulk you see on TV.
“The people who look at Bryson and think the reason he’s hitting the ball 9 miles is because of his body are going to miss the point,’’ Chamblee said. “In 2017, his clubhead speed was 117 miles per hour. He was clocked at 137 miles per hour last week. I would say about 5 miles an hour of that added speed is due to his body change.
“He’s changed his golf swing. There was a lot of thought that went into what Bryson did — a lot of work with three or four different people specifically. Chris Como [DeChambeau’s swing coach] made it his job to go find out how to create more speed. He went to two different — that I know of — speed camps. He went to one taught by Lucas Wald, who teaches Eddie Fernandes, who’s known as “Fast Eddie,’’ the No. 1 in the world [Masters Division] long drive contest.
“Then he went to another clinic called Mach3. He also learned from Kelvin Miyahira, a guru in Hawaii who everyone copied from, and he learned from [acclaimed instructor George] Gankas. Chris took all those things to improve speed and gave it to Bryson.
“If you look at his swing from 2017 to 2020, by the time he’s at impact in 2020 he’s not yet completed his backswing in 2017. Bryson has used himself as a guinea pig, with the beaker and Bunsen burner out and went to work.’’
It, of course, is paying off. Big time.
DeChambeau, when he started his career, thought he was setting a trend by using the same length shafts on every one of his irons. That hasn’t taken. His new-found strength and length, however, may be a different story.
“I’m sure there will be people trying to do it,” DeChambeau said recently. “As a result of what I’ve done, I think it’ll affect some people.”
Matt Dobyns, a 42-year-old head pro at the Fresh Meadow Club on Long Island who’s played in numerous PGA Tour events, sees in this re-invented DeChambeau as a trend that’s going to be copied the way players copied Woods.
“Everybody in golf is talking about Bryson,.” — Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee
“I find it hard to believe that good young players aren’t going to look at his results, and ability to play these golf courses in such a way that it gives him such an advantage off the tee, and not try and duplicate that with their own games,’’ Dobyns said. “A lot remains to be seen in terms of evaluating what he does long term, but I think all signs point to it being a very influential for good young players.
“I would assume mini-tours are full of guys that are heavy lifting and doing a lot of muscle isolation, muscle building and speed training.’’
Dobyns, who several years ago copied DeChambeau’s use of the same-length shafts in his irons, said he’s blown away by the workout path DeChambeau has taken.
“What fascinates me the most is that he has almost done the opposite of what conventional golf fitness says you should be doing,’’ Dobyns said. “From what I understand, he seems to be doing a lot of muscle isolation on machines, not incorporating elements of balance. Those are all things that the conventional golf-fitness world says you shouldn’t do.
“That part fascinates me — that he’s done so many things that seem to be thought of as not the thing to do. Yet here is with 200-mile-per-hour ball speed and hitting it straight. It’s wild.’’
Dobyns said, around his club, DeChambeau “dominates the conversation when it comes to professional golf,’’ adding, “It’s all anyone wants to talk about. I haven’t heard anybody talk about Tiger yet. Everyone’s talking about Bryson. So, he must be doing something worth talking about.’’
In his past seven events, the worst DeChambeau has finished is that tie for eighth at Hilton Head. So, in that span he has six top-six finishes, including a win as he enters this week’s Memorial at Muirfield Village, where he won in 2017.
“It’s fun to watch,’’ Dobyns said. “It’s something different. That’s what I love about golf. There’s room for individual creativity. There’s no standard for how to get better.’’
Mike Diffley, the long-time head pro at Pelham Country Club, doesn’t subscribe to DeChambeau setting a trend, saying he doesn’t believe the swing is sustainable.
“Is he an outlier here?’’ Diffley asked. “I think so. I don’t see many people going to the extreme he has. He’s special player, a special talent with a special ability to score and play good under pressure. Will he be able to turn it into a legendary career? I don’t know. Will his body last? Who the hell can swing that hard and not tear muscles?’’
Mark McCormick, the head pro at Suburban Golf Club in New Jersey, said though many of his members are fascinated by DeChambeau, they have a difficult time embracing him because he’s gone to such extremes.
“Everyone is talking about him,’’ McCormick said. “People think he looks like a gorilla. They’re in shock and awe and can’t wrap their head around what he’s doing. It looks like he’s one swing away from pulling a muscle, getting a neck injury or straining something.’’
Bulk Up Like Bryson
Tyler Hall, the director of instruction at Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey, saw up close and personal what raw power can do on the PGA Tour level when he played in the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where Brooks Koepka overpowered the beast last year.
Hall not only is a top golf instructor, he also has his physical trainer’s license and has always been a workout hound. That only intensifies his appreciation for what DeChambeau is doing.
“Tiger was the guy who proved that athletes can play this game, that we can get strong and maintain flexibility,’’ Hall said. “Now, as people are seeing what Bryson is doing, you’ll start to see a trend in players not afraid to lift heavy weights and bulk up and take in more calories. Strength is an advantage.
“I think you’re going to see another movement of fitness. Tiger already changed it, but I think it’s going to change again. You can already see it with Koepka. He’s a beast. Part me thinks Koepka was a motivating factor for Bryson doing what he did. Like the being picked on at school, he got bigger than the other guys. It’s a fascinating story.’’
DeChambeau, recently revealing his diet, said he uses a “2-to-1 carb-to-protein ratio’’ and retains that throughout each day with everything he eats and drinks.
His daily diet includes four eggs, five bacon strips, toast and three “Orgain Protein’’ shakes for breakfast. While playing, he said he has two “GoMacro’’ bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a protein shake every six holes. After the round, he adds snacks and another protein shake. For dinner, he has steak and two more protein shakes.
To help bulk up, he’s used Greg Roskopf’s “Muscle Activation Techniques,’’ a training method to add muscle.
The next step for DeChambeau, who has six career wins, is to win a major. To date, he’s yet to contend in a major, with just two top-25 finishes in 13 starts as a pro.
“Once he gets into the majors, as long as his mind is clear, that’s where you’ll see the fruits of his labor,’’ Hall predicted. “I see him fully contending at Winged Foot [in the U.S. Open in September] and Harding Park [at the PGA Championship next month]. I don’t see how he is not a force in those events.’’
Numbers Don’t Lie
DeChambeau was in the midst of an impressive career before he made these drastic changes to his body and his swing. That is somewhat reminiscent of Woods, who famously changed his swing despite having risen to the pinnacle of the game.
“Imagine having a job that pays you millions of dollars a year and you risk all of it by reorganizing the way you do everything,’’ Chamblee said. “Most tour players who are having the kind of success that Bryson was having would never risk changing their body drastically and changing their golf swing drastically.’’
A look at the numbers tells you DeChambeau has turned the risk into reward. His scoring average in 2017 was 70.8. This year, it’s 68.7. In 2017, he ranked 45th on the PGA Tour in driving distance. He’s currently No. 1.
DeChambeau launched 22 drives longer than 340 yards en route to winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and he recorded the longest average driving distance ever (350.6) by a PGA Tour winner. Tiger Woods held the previous record of 341.5, which he accomplished at the 2005 British Open.
Because DeChambeau was driving it so far — according to ShotLink, the tour’s computer system — statistically he was last in the field in proximity to the hole. Because his tee shots were so long, ShotLink was counting them as approach shots. ShotLink considers all shots within 30 yards of the green an approach shot.
Overall this season, his 323-yard average leads Cameron Champ, who’s second at 322.6. Rory McIlroy is fifth at 313.8. Brooks Koepka is tied for 17th with a 308.8 average. And Dustin Johnson is 27th with a 306.3-yard average.
“The whole golf world is obsessed with it — for a lot of different reasons,’’ Chamblee said. “They either think it’s going to ruin the game or be great for the game. Look at the increase in offense in football and how it has absolutely rocketed the ratings up.
“If you’re a traditionalist and you think that [DeChambeau] is obsoleting golf courses, I’m sure you’re disgusted with it. But if you can just sit back and celebrate the athleticism that it’s taking to do this and get past the idea that the game has changed …
“Is basketball a worse game now because Steph Curry’s lighting it up from 3-point range? Is football a worse game now because everyone is throwing the ball and there’s hardly anyone running it anymore? Maybe this will lead to the governing bodies rolling back the ball. If they do, that’s fine. Bryson will still hit it further than anyone else. It’s great for golf.’’
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