MARTIN SAMUEL: Bryson DeChambeau is a kitty compared to the nature of Augusta

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There were times when DeChambeau's game rocked and watching him was a thrill



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Sixty seven. The number Bryson DeChambeau once said was his peer around Augusta. He revised that this year, said it was now 68. So in that sense he was a sub.

In real money, he had five cents for the day, one for the tournament, a magnificent 18 hole course that puts him in contention on the weekends. Was it as easy as he wanted to make it sound? Barely.

There were times when DeChambeau’s game tipped over the edge. That’s why watching it is such a pleasure. Take the eighth. The tee shot flew the required 348 yards as expected, but to the right.

Bryson DeChambeau entered the Masters weekend after a great 18 holes

Not really good, in the trees, but on the wrong side of the first cut, in the pine straw. It was not one of the most well-known unique strategies. It was neither a device of science, nor a cunning plan.

“Son of a gun, man,” DeChambeau exclaimed, berating. Lowering his voice, he whispered a more damning verdict. “It’s awful,” he whispered.

When he got to the ball he had been lucky. A clear view of the green through the gnarled trunks and a chance to explode. He came within 11 yards of the spit, sank an eight-foot putt for birdie. It was the first time he had been under par in either round of the 2021 US Masters. And it took him 26 holes.

So much for bombarding it and finding it, as Butch Harmon rather derogatoryly described the DeChambeau philosophy. There is much more to it, of course.

There were times when DeChambeau's game rocked and watching him was a thrill

There were times when DeChambeau’s game rocked and watching him was a thrill

Some of the shots he played on Friday were sublime – huge, arrow straight, over 300 yards from the tee that could be found quite easily, as they resided in the most perfect spot on the fairway.

DeChambeau has treated his environment with respect. Was it reciprocal? Not always. When he took everything but 20 yards from the par four-thirds of the teeing equation, it was impressive – but we’ve seen monster workouts before.

And, as Phil Mickelson pointed out, the best defensive weapon for any championship course is the greens. No matter how far he hit, DeChambeau still had to face the greens. Hard and fast and evil in their outlines and mysteries.

More than once they have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Bomb him and find him? Would Augusta be worshiped as she is, if that were the secret to her loss? In the third, he put his second 13 feet over the pin and missed the birdie putt.

The green jackets are patiently waiting for the sport to face DeChambeau’s best plans. Fred Ridley, president of Augusta National, has no desire to see the course play 8,000 yards at any time in the near future, to guard against an invasion of DeChambeau clones.

DeChambeau had treated those around him with respect but the feeling was not always mutual

DeChambeau had treated those around him with respect but the feeling was not always mutual

DeChambeau had treated those around him with respect but the feeling was not always mutual

There are holes that could be extended, but Ridley thinks it could affect the delicate balance of a design classic. He is right too. Acts of vandalism could be perpetrated when natural remedies and some old-fashioned counterattack measures would do the job better.

A few dry days, a stiff breeze, smart pin positions. That’s what kept DeChambeau at bay until here. It is an equal competition, a fair competition. Augusta won Thursday, De Chambeau Friday, especially over the last nine.

A well-appointed golf course, however, remains the most brutal adversary. All week long, analogies have been made about Augusta’s harshness. “I feel like I’m stepping out of the ring with Evander Holyfield,” said Sergio Garcia.

“I feel like I’m stepping out of the ring with Mike Tyson,” said Gary Woodland. DeChambeau’s bodywork is often talked about in terms of a boxer applying muscle, but Augusta has a lot of jabs of her own. They simply adorn them with flowers around those parts.

At a superb par 3 12th, DeChambeau hit his tee shot within seven feet, then hit his bird putt. He was standing over the ball with his mouth open. ‘Oh. My. God. There’s no way it’ll break at the end like this. It’s all the way. “That’s what you thought,” Augusta smiles, and dances, Ali mocking an angry Sonny Liston.

Augusta may have won on Thursday but DeChambeau won on Friday, especially on back nine

Augusta may have won on Thursday but DeChambeau won on Friday, especially on back nine

Augusta may have won on Thursday but DeChambeau won on Friday, especially on back nine

Plus, it’s not easy to successfully execute DeChambeau’s overall ambition from the tee every time. Its detractors make it seem like anyone can and do gain weight. It’s rot. He was broadly straight, often in an excellent position, some distance in front of his playing partners Adam Scott and Max Homa.

However, when it is missing, it is missing big. At 10 he flew again just past the gallery ropes, jumping down the wooded slope. No more reproach. “I’m doing it again,” he said. This time, like the last, it began to explode from the foliage again, attracting roars of approval and a big “ho, ho, ho” from an even bigger patron.

Yet that was not enough. DeChambeau bogeyed, gave a hard earned shot, came back to three above par. Golf loves its parking champions, but 300 meters in a parking lot offer no way out.

DeChambeau is an extremely risky game with a low margin for error. It’s dreaded because when it works – as it happened at the US Open at Winged Foot last year – it’s almost unbeatable. But everything has to be good, all the time.

And so far at the Masters this has happened sporadically. After making three birdies between holes 13 and 17, he almost gave much of that back on 18, one tree didn’t deflect his ball into another lucky lie. From there, however, he birdied. He is much more than this one-dimensional caricature.

DeChambeau's play is based on high risk with low margin for error - it must always be good

DeChambeau's play is based on high risk with low margin for error - it must always be good

DeChambeau’s play is based on high risk with low margin for error – it must always be good

When asked about DeChambeau’s personal par, Dustin Johnson said his own scorecard reads 72. We imagine there will have been some wry smiles after DeChambeau’s first round of 76. By his calculation, it was eight above par.

Friday’s tour would have been received more soberly. With admiration, we also hope. What other golfer is currently facing such self-inflicted pressures?

So it was a great day for DeChambeau. He avoided the nervous wait on the beach as the forecast for the cut fluctuated. Yet he will also know that here Augusta National has given as well as he has.

The spotlight will have blazed in the night sky as it pondered once again, how to tame this monster. Some think it’s the monster. He is not. He’s a kitty, compared to Augusta with his madness. We will see.

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