Man of moment Bryson DeChambeau insists he's a Masters 'underdog'
He’s been the talk of the steamie since coming out of lockdown looking like the Incredible Hulk and showed why when storming to an impressive six-shot success in last month’s US Open at Winged Foot.
Now, with or without a 48-inch driver, Bryson DeChambeau is threatening to rip Augusta National apart, but the American is playing down his favourite’s tag heading into this week’s rescheduled Masters.
“I'm not sure if I like it or not,” said DeChambeau, speaking in his pre-event press conference, of being the centre of attention for the tournamentt’s first November staging. “I'm trying to look at it as I'm still an underdog to the field. Anybody can win this week. There's a lot of unbelievable players out there.
“I will never look at myself as someone that is better than anyone out here until the scores are written in stone afterwards. It's just not what I do, it's not what I will ever do. The attention that I've gained has been awesome. I love it. I think it's fun.
“But I've got to set myself back and go, anybody can win this week. I have to keep normalising to that because that's what I know is fact. I could be the favourite, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to win. I could be dead last.
“I don't know how it's going to play out. I'm going to give it my all. If I don't play well, I miss the cut, I'm still going to be gracious and walk off and go, you know what, I've still had a great year and I'm going to try and come back better next year. I'm not going to look at it any other way than that. I don't want to feel any other hype. I don't need to.”
DeChambeau’s best finish in three previous appearances in this event was when he tied for 21st on his debut as an amateur in 2016. He’s riding on a crest of a wave coming in this time, though. The 27-year-old has recorded 10 top-10s since the start of the year.
He won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit after the PGA Tour restarted following the COVID-19 lockdown before landing his maiden major in style with a brilliant all-round performance in the US Open.
“Obviously I love the fact that I've been able to get a major championship and get that off my back,” he replied to being asked how his life had changed on the back of that success.
“But it's not changed too much from my perspective other than the fact I feel like now in major championships I can go and attack them and not have this impending major championship looming over my head.
“It's like, okay, I've already gotten that under the belt and let's see how many more I can get. So that's really the only difference I feel like for me that's changed during this whole time.”
Sandy Lyle, the 1988 winner and sole Scot in the field this year, played a practice round with DeChambeau in the build up to this event and reported astonishing details regarding clubs the American used for some of his approach shots. They were confirmed by the man himself.
“No 1, if I hit it in the fairway, I can have a 60-70-yard,” reported DeChambeau, who played with defending champion Tiger Woods, as well as Fred Couples and Justin Thomas, on Monday. “I guess even in wet conditions, I'm able to get it up that close to the green.
“No 2, I think I had 7-iron in the other day. No 3, I can get to the green. And No 5, I had 8 or 9-iron in. Yeah, it was in the wind, so it was 8 iron that day. No 7, this is a wedge shot. Nothing crazy. It was into the wind every day I played it.
“No 8, I've had as little as 6 iron in. No 9, it's a 53 to 48 degree for me. At 10, it's a 9 iron at worst. 11 yesterday with Tiger and Freddie and J.T., I had pitching wedge in. I asked Tiger, I said, "What did you hit in in '97?" And he goes, "Pitching wedge." I'm like, "That's cool, all right."
“13, I had pitching wedge in. I cut the corner drastically. That's one of those where you do cut it over and you can hit it high enough and draw enough, you can gain a pretty big advantage there. 14, nothing crazy. It was into the wind. 15, 8 iron.
“17, into the wind. I hit 8 iron, as well. Then 18, I mean, I hit it over the bunker, you can have 110 yards into the green. So that's just a basic general principle of what it is.
“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 that I think people sometimes struggle to see. As much as I can gain an advantage off the tee, I still have to putt it well and chip it well and wedge it well and even iron play it well, and that's what I did at the US Open.
"If I don't putt it well at the US Open, if I don't wedge it well, if I don't hit my irons close, I don't win that tournament. So it always comes down to making the putts at the end of the day."
As for that 48-inch driver, which he’s been testing since Winged Foot, it will come down to a last-minute decision. “It looks really promising right now,” he said. “I'm not 100 per cent sure if I'll put it in play yet just because of the unknown; it's so close to the Masters, but if it is an improvement if every facet of launch conditions, then I don't see why not.”
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