Bryson DeChambeau is bidding to make the course at Augusta look puny

There’s a slugger’s paradise in store as Augusta tries to remain relevant… but beefcake Bryson DeChambeau is bidding to make the course look puny in search of Master success at the fourth attempt

  • Masters chief Fred Ridley vowed Augusta National will never become obsolete 
  • We are at the dawn of another long-hitting revolution with Bryson DeChambeau 
  • DeChambeau has never come close to solving the riddle of Augusta’s greens 
  • It seems amazing that so few people are talking up Rory McIlroy’s chances 

Masters chairman Fred Ridley vowed on Wednesday that Augusta National will never become obsolete. This week, however, might be the one where it struggles to cope with the long-hitting onslaught.

Ridley even admitted as much, saying the challenge of the par-five 13th, the best risk-reward hole in golf, had been ‘diminished and it was not good for the Masters or for the game’.

Adding that the sport was at a crossroads and ‘closer to a call for action’, his message was clear. If the governing bodies do not finally do something about how far the ball travels when their findings are published early next year, Augusta will make plans for a near-8,000 yard course for April 2022.

We are at the dawn of another long-hitting revolution with Bryson DeChambeau

DeChambeau has never come close in three appearances to solving the riddle of Augusta

‘Not every course can make changes but we will take the necessary action to make sure that we remain relevant,’ said Ridley.

This, therefore, feels like one of those epochal Masters like 1963 when Jack Nicklaus won for the first time, or 1997 when Tiger made his debut as a pro and won by 12 shots. Both made the course look puny, and Augusta grew accordingly to almost 7,500 yards.

Now we are at the dawn of another long-hitting revolution, with Bryson DeChambeau the divisive genius who has half the game applauding his chutzpah and the other half lamenting the fact his swing has none of the grace of Rory McIlroy’s.

Right behind him, there are the likes of Matthew Wolff and Scottie Scheffler who are almost as long. There are college kids who will soon be even longer. It now seems inevitable the governing bodies will rein back the ball to preserve our treasure of courses, but it will not alter the direction of travel. This is a runaway train.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley vowed on Wednesday that Augustawill never become obsolete

Both Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have made the course look puny in the past

Ridley and his fellow Green Jackets will have been thoroughly dismayed hearing DeChambeau saying the par for him is more like 67 than 72. The fact he thinks he can clear all the tall pines that protect the left side of the 13th fairway, thereby rendering it a non-dogleg par five, might well have been the final straw. It has always been a huge advantage to hit the ball long at Augusta, with its generous landing areas, but this year will be one of those where it is disproportionate.

Bryson and the bash brigade ought to make hay while they can, mind, just like Jack did in 1963 when leaving course founder Bobby Jones to lament: ‘He plays a game with which I am not familiar.’

This Masters, however, will not be won with long-hitting alone. Jack and Tiger claimed 11 Green Jackets between them but not one without an equally sure hand with the putter, a velvet touch around the greens.

DeChambeau has never come close in three Masters appearances to solving the riddle of Augusta’s greens. While the 27-year-old will blow us all away with where his ball keeps landing, he will have to wait to set his menu of two steaks and three protein shakes at the Champion’s Dinner until he solves that particular puzzle.

DeChambeau has half the game applauding his chutzpah and the other half complaining

It is fair to say the Masters has not been won by the most obvious names in recent editions. The last four winners were Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Tiger, and nobody had them as the favourite.

With little wind forecast and soft conditions contributing to the feel of a slugger’s paradise, the axis has shifted to favour the big hitters at the top of the world rankings. It is a curious fact that not one of the world’s current top 10 has ever won a Green Jacket and only Reed and Adam Scott ranked in the top 30. That surely has to change.

Given the benign conditions, it seems amazing that so few people are talking up McIlroy’s chances. Three of his four majors were claimed under such conditions and two of them by large margins. The word in practice is the Northern Irishman is looking close to his best, but can he do it when it counts and restore the faith?

In this year of Masters firsts, could we see the first Augusta debutant to win since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979? It is certainly possible.

We have already seen 23-year-old Collin Morikawa win the US PGA, while his old college rival Wolff, just 21, became the first man for more than a century to finish in the top four in his first two majors — fourth at the PGA, runner-up at the US Open.

Given the benign conditions, it seems amazing that so few people are talking up Rory McIlroy

Throw in the gifted Scheffler, and there is every chance of a rookie leaving an indelible mark.

This has not been a good period for European golf in terms of winning majors in America. Indeed, it is the leanest run since Seve Ballesteros won here 40 years ago and the floodgates opened for his peers. The last 10 majors staged on US soil have all been won by Americans.

World No 2 Jon Rahm is the leading hope, provided he does not get embroiled in a slug-fest with playing partner DeChambeau over the first two days.

Perhaps the spell will be broken in the manner that Willett won in 2016, by a good player who started out under the radar and seized his chance when it came.

Tyrrell Hatton certainly fits that bill, while Tommy Fleetwood has served his time with two near misses at the US Open, to go alongside his runner-up finish at the Open last year.

World No 2 Jon Rahm is the leading hope, provided he does not get embroiled in a slug-fest

Finally, the weather. You can change the date and even the season, it seems, but the 84th Masters will get underway today amid a storm warning similar to the one that threatened the final day last year.

On that occasion, the worst of the weather settled elsewhere and it led to the best that golf can deliver, with a Masters miracle from the incomparable Woods.

For all the legitimate worries about long hitting distorting the Augusta test, another treat surely lies in store, if the weather holds off once more.

Even without the much-missed patrons, there is still enough magic about the gift that keeps on giving each April to send us into winter with the warmest glow.




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