Can Augusta National contain Bryson DeChambeau?


AUGUSTA, GA. -- As Bryson DeChambeau changed his body, adding weight to his frame and distance to his game, one lingering question always hung in the background: What is he going to do to Augusta National? "Every golf course you ever play, length is advantage, but I think what he could possibly do at Augusta National could be scary," two-time U.S. Open champion and ESPN golf analyst Andy North said. "It really could be." With the help of North, ESPN Stats & Information and data from last year's Masters, we take a look at how DeChambeau could take on Augusta National in a way that hasn't been seen in decades. Here's how he got here -- and how to watch this week on ESPN and ESPN+:

This is what DeChambeau's body looked like during last year's Masters, when he tied for 29th place. That was before he committed to bulking up.
He transformed his body for 2020, putting on 40 pounds of muscle, and now hits drives 20, 30, sometimes 40 yards past where he did a year ago.
He is playing with supreme confidence. In August, DeChambeau claimed his first major championship by overpowering famed and feared Winged Foot.

We looked at the five holes in which the new Bryson DeChambeau can destroy the rest of the field and render Augusta National defenseless. Note: We eliminated the four par 5s. Same with No. 3, the short par 4 , which at 350 yards is driveable for DeChambeau. It's these five holes where he can distance himself from the field and win the Masters:

No. 1 Par 4, 445 yards

The common, most practical play, is a smooth drive between the trees on the left and the fairway bunker on the right. That was the plan last year, aiming left to avoid the bunkers and a sure opening bogey. Now, he can wave at those bunkers on the way by.

"If he can hit it straight, the bunker [down the right side] is not in play," North said.
"He might be able to hit it far enough that there is a big tree to the right of the first bunker; if he can hit it past that, it's a fairly wide area."
"It's going to be a narrow place to get it to, but if he hits a good one off the first hole, he's got a sand wedge [for his second shot]. This makes the first hole critical because for him that bunker now isn't even in play."
"And by hitting it past that bunker, it changes that hole dramatically. Basically, it leaves him a 100-yard second shot. Into the wind some days, [the rest of the field] could be hitting 6 irons."

No. 5 Par 4, 495 yards

Never an easy hole, the folks at Augusta National made it a little harder in 2019, pushing the tees back 40 yards. In Woods' victory last year, he walked away with bogey each and every day. In each of the first three rounds, he hit in the fairway way bunkers down the left side. DeChambeau might not have to worry about that problem.

"If he can hit it past those bunkers [on the left] that changes that hole completely," North said. "They are all hitting it so darn far now that it changes all these holes how they were originally designed to be played. He might be the only guy in the field who can carry it over those bunkers."
"To be able to go into the fifth hole, with the severity of that green, you have a 9-iron instead of a 6-iron, that's a huge deal."
"That's a hole an extra 20-30 yards makes a huge difference because now you can hopefully control your approach shot to an area of the green where you actually have a chance."

No. 9 Par 4, 460 yards

The players stand on the back tee staring at a chute -- trees left, trees right -- as they finish their first nine. The line usually is down the right side, leaving a good angle but a treacherous second shot into one of the most severely sloped greens on the property. DeChambeau has the option to take all the trouble out of play.

"All the trees on the left on No. 9 no longer exist for him," North said. "He just hits it over the right-center of those trees."
"Once in a while, with the right conditions, you could get it way down there, but it you'd need to fit the tee shot in there and hook it around the corner and get it to hit pretty hard. Now, he can just fly it right to that same spot and there's no trouble at all."
"With a good one there, he can probably hit it right up there to about 70 yards to the green. That takes the danger of that tee shot out of play. Now if you can just hit it up over the top of all that stuff it doesn't make a difference."

No. 11 Par 4, 505 yards

Welcome to Amen Corner. Drives usually settle at the top of the hill, leaving an intimidating look down at a green with mounds right and a pond left. With a long iron in hand, it's a scary shot. Thing is, DeChambeau won't have a long iron in his hands.

"I think this is a critical hole for him," North said. "So many of the guys there, they drive it not on the upslope but just on the beginning of the flat part and it rolls a little bit."
"If he can carry it another 30-40 yards, he can actually get it to the downslope. He might get it down to where he's hitting wedge to that hole."
"I think he can hit it down there far enough he can get it just past all those little trees on the right. That's a big-deal drive for him."

No. 18 Par 4, 465 yards

In 2002, the club moved the tees back 55-60 yards and five yards to the players' right. The idea? Force the players to find the fairway instead of just hammering it over the bunkers on the left. Well, somebody is about to bring us back to the old days and try to hammer over the bunkers on the left.

"Remember when Tiger hit it over those bunkers [on the left] in '97..." North said.
"Now, I think [DeChambeau] can hit it over those bunkers again. I think he can get up there and just blast it."
"If he can hit it out in that open area past those bunkers, it's a pretty good angle to come in. And, you know, now he's hitting a wedge."

First green jacket?

Gary Player recently said it would take nothing more than a "reasonable week" from DeChambeau for him to be wearing his first green jacket. Fellow Tour pro and former Masters champion Jordan Spieth told the "Subpar" podcast the only way DeChambeau doesn't win the Masters is if he loses it himself.

So that's it? It's over, right? DeChambeau will close out this strange year at the first fall Masters with an emphatic win to add to his U.S. Open title in August?

"I think we are getting a little carried away," North said. "In Vegas [at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open], they thought he was going to shoot 40 under par." [Note: He shot 18-under and finished tied for eighth]

"You still have to get it on the green and make putts. And you have to make a whole bunch of 5- and 6-footers for par with crazy breakers with great speed. That's still the most important part of [Masters] week."

Photography from Getty Images, Associated Press, Imagn, EPA

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