‘Human’ Bryson DeChambeau bludgeons through back nine to climb back towards contention
The battle for golf’s green jacket may ultimately prove to be beyond Bryson DeChambeau this week. But the ongoing battle for golf’s soul rages on – and it remains as riveting as ever. There was much sniggering after a first-round 76 on Thursday left DeChambeau four-over par and in danger of missing the cut at the 2021 Masters. But a much-improved second-round 67 on Friday ensured golf’s current pantomime villain will be around for the weekend. More than that, the way the Californian bludgeoned his way around the back nine on Friday, climbing steadily back into overall contention, will raise renewed fears he might yet be capable of something extraordinary. Golf’s purists will be on their guard. DeChambeau’s infamous boast last November that Augusta National was a mere “par-67” for him was a line in the sand as far the whole ‘power’ conversation was concerned. From that moment, the desperation in some quarters for DeChambeau to fail, for his hubris to be exposed, was palpable. The schadenfreude when he bombed out of contention last November was startling, possibly even a little unfair. Although it has to be said DeChambeau hardly helps himself, churning out social media videos showing him hitting record new swing speeds on the range, and boasting of how far he can whack the ball. When Rory McIlroy admitted he had restructured golf’s most beautiful swing partly on the strength of the way DeChambeau dismantled of Winged Foot last summer, it was as if the American had shot Bambi. So when he faltered again in the first round this week, and it looked as if he was going to be served another healthy dollop of comeuppance rather than a meal of his choosing at the Champions Dinner, there were more than a few of his peers ready to rejoice. But the 27 year-old with the whacky irons and even whackier attitude fought back in round two as Augusta’s more forgiving fairways and greens allowed him to bring his power game to play. It was actually fascinating to watch. Beginning the day at four-over par, DeChambeau spent much of the first few holes chuntering away to himself as he tried to get his round going – almost, it seemed, through force of personality, rather than the raw power or dispassionate, machine-like efficiency for which he has become known. The truth is, for someone who bangs on so much about science and data, DeChambeau is surprisingly human out on course. It is part of what makes him so intriguing; watching him wrestle with his own human frailties as he attempts to prove his thesis, that the game of golf can be reduced to cold hard numbers and the application of science. It’s a battle he can never win. The Californian may look like a gym bunny and swing like a robot, but he is all too human, too error-prone.