In less than a year, Bryson DeChambeau has transformed himself into one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour.
DeChambeau dominated Winged Foot Golf Club last week to win his first major championship and take home his second tour win of 2020, a year in which he transformed his body and changed his entire game.
After the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on the PGA Tour season last March, DeChambeau decided to use the time off to continue to bulk up in an effort to increase his ball speed and driving distance.
DeChambeau gained about 20 pounds of muscle over the three-month quarantine and has gained about 40 pounds in the last year.
DeChambeau led the PGA Tour in driving distance for the 2019-20 season, continually out-driving the games’ perennial big hitters like Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.
There is no doubt that being able to outdrive most of the field on a week-to-week basis gives a player a huge advantage, as they can reach par 5s in two shots with ease and have a short iron or wedge into the green on almost every par 4 on today’s courses.
However, many golf traditionalists say this style of play is bad for the game of golf overall, as they would rather see a style of play with more finesse and artistry than a player just trying to out-muscle the rest of the field.
McIlroy commented on Sunday after DeChambeau’s win on how his unconventional approach has led to his success.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does,” McIlroy said. “Look, he’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know, but it’s just — it’s not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played. It’s kind of hard to really wrap my head around it.”
When McIlroy said DeChambeau’s win was unusual for a U.S. Open, he was referring to the fact that DeChambeau only hit 23 out of 56 fairways.
The rough at Winged Foot for the tournament was brutal (which is a signature of the U.S. Open), so the fact that he won by six strokes only hitting 23 fairways all week (the least a U.S. Open winner has hit since 1981) is unprecedented.
This is especially impressive because the aspect of DeChambeau’s game that’s gotten the most hype this year is his increased driving distance off the tee, but it was his iron game that won him this tournament.
DeChambeau has not been the most popular player on tour this year, to say the least. Many fans see his constant chatter about his use of science to better his golf game as disingenuous and only for the good of his brand (this scientific knowledge is how he earned his nickname on tour “The Scientist”).
He has been ridiculed for comments he’s made off the course, like his claim that he hopes to live to be around 130 to 140 years old.
DeChambeau also had a few awkward moments on the course this season, like when he berated a cameraman for doing their job and when he complained about ants being near his ball.
He has been criticized for slow play on numerous occasions, which is at the crux of his beef with Brooks Koepka, one of the game’s biggest stars and a four-time major champion.
However, no matter what the fans or his competitors think of him, he will be a force to be reckoned with on the PGA Tour for years to come.
Time will tell if more young players follow his example and attempt to gain lots of muscle in order to gain an advantage on the golf course.
Despite many players and traditionalists’ claims this style is bad for the game, it may be exactly the direction the game is headed.
Janssen can be reached at [email protected].