AUGUSTA, Ga. — Consistently hitting tee shots 40 yards past five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods in a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club apparently isn’t long enough for Bryson DeChambeau.
A day after DeChambeau said he would leave a 48-inch driver in his trunk for this week’s Masters, he reversed course Tuesday and said it might still end up in his bag.
“Well, I tested it yesterday for the first time,” DeChambeau said. “And we’ve gone through at least three or four iterations of the shaft, and this is the most promising one yet.”
DeChambeau said the 48-inch driver, the longest allowed in competition under the Rules of Golf, added 4 to 5 mph in ball speed and allowed him to get his swing speed up to 143-144 mph. He said the new driver also decreased the spin rate of his drives.
“I mean, it looks really promising right now,” DeChambeau said. “I did not expect it to work yesterday. I was like, ‘This is going to take even more time,’ but it did work yesterday. I’m not 100 percent 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 in every facet of launch conditions, then I don’t see why not.”
DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September, already leads the PGA Tour in driving distance with a 344-yard average this season.
“From a driving perspective, I just am trying to get up there like I’m in a batter’s box, swinging as hard as I can trying to hit a home run,” DeChambeau said. “I don’t know if there’s a better way to say it.”
Even four-time major championship winner Brooks Koepka, who has been critical of DeChambeau’s approach in the past, said he might have an advantage this week because of his length off the tee.
“[He’s] still got to hit the fairways, still got to hit it close and still got to make the putts,” Koepka said. “The longer you hit it, obviously it becomes a little bit more difficult to put it in the fairway. Your misses become a little bit wider. I have no idea. If he wants to put a 48[-inch] driver in, good for him.
“I mean, it’s going to be an advantage. Length is always an advantage. He’s done a good job of working. He’s worked his tail off to hit it that far.”
Justin Thomas, who played a practice round with DeChambeau on Monday, said he has a sizable advantage off the tee against the rest of the field at Augusta National.
“It’s a substantially easier golf course for him than it is for everybody else,” Thomas said. “To me, he’s not hitting it any further than he was the last time I played with him. I think once he starts messing with that longer driver and has a little bit more free time, then as crazy as it is, he might be able to hit it further. But, yeah, pretty much every hole he’s going to have a pretty distinct advantage over everybody.
“It’ very impressive what he’s done. I still think the fact that he hits it as straight as he does as far as he does is extremely impressive, and he’s definitely gotten a lot of players to change their mentality or at least try to pick up some yardage.”
Thomas, a 13-time winner on Tour, said it’s still going to come down to DeChambeau’s ability to get the ball on the green and putting.
“I mean, no offense to him, but he’s not winning every tournament he’s playing in, so it’s clearly not too much of a disadvantage,” Thomas said. “You still have to get the ball in the hole. Although he has a big advantage, I still think that he wins tournaments he does because he still putts it really well. He’s a great putter, and it’s a very underrated part of his game.”