Afterthought: DeChambeau looks to regain swagger at Masters

April 5, 2022 GMT
Bryson DeChambeau watches his shot from the sixth tee during the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Bryson DeChambeau watches his shot from the sixth tee during the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Bryson DeChambeau watches his shot from the sixth tee during the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Bryson DeChambeau watches his shot from the sixth tee during the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Bryson DeChambeau watches his shot from the sixth tee during the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Bryson DeChambeau’s power game hasn’t done him much good at Augusta National.

Now, injuries have cut him down to size.

DeChambeau has been limited by hip and hand ailments in recent months, which leaves him at less than full strength and a bit of an afterthought heading into the Masters.

His doctors even urged him to consider sitting out the first major of the year, to give himself more time to heal.

DeChambeau wouldn’t think of it.

“They recommended that I don’t come back for a while,” he said Monday. “I’m like, ‘Man, this only comes around once a year, and I’ve got to give this a go.’”

DeChambeau certainly has some unfinished business at Augusta National.

In 2020, when the Masters was shifted to November because of the coronavirus pandemic, DeChambeau confidently predicted that his massive bulk and blinding swing would give him a huge edge over the rest of the field.

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Coming off a six-stroke romp at the U.S. Open, where he overpowered Winged Foot with his prodigious drives, DeChambeau raised plenty of eyebrows when he said one of golf’s most hallowed courses played like a par-67 for him.

DeChambeau didn’t come close to backing up those bold words. Most memorably, he lost a ball at No. 3 — the shortest par-4 on the course, and one of the holes where he considered par to be a birdie — and was out of contention before he even got to the weekend.

A year ago, when the Masters returned to its usual spot in the spring, DeChambeau turned in another lackluster showing. He posted a pair of 75s over the final two rounds to finish 5 over for the week, a whopping 15 strokes behind winner Hideki Matsuyama.

DeChambeau hit plenty of monstrous shots. He just didn’t know where it was going sometimes — a fatal flaw at a course that demands precision and finesse.

The injuries have humbled DeChambeau, who tossed out an 80% figure when asked how close he was to being 100%.

“The past few weeks have been very, very difficult on me, not playing well and not hitting it anywhere near where I know I should be hitting it in regards to straight,” he said. “Yelling ‘Fore!’ off the tee every time is just not fun.”

After missing the cut at Torrey Pines in late January, DeChambeau headed over to Saudi Arabia and withdrew after one round. He says he slipped on a marble floor playing table tennis and landed on his left hand and left hip.

He didn’t play for nearly two months. He only returned two weeks ago for the Match Play World Golf Championship, where he lost two matches and tied another to finish last in his group.

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DeChambeau teed it up again last week at the Texas Open. He again failed to make the cut with rounds of 72 and 76.

Clearly, he’s generated none of the buzz and hype that accompanied him to the last two Masters.

As always, DeChambeau hopes to turn adversity into an advantage. He’s certainly not changing his approach, which still centers around hitting it farther than anyone.

“Everybody has a tough stretch in their career,” he said. “Your lowest moments are your best. Your worst failures are your best teachers. So for me, my greatest failures have been my best moments of learning, and so this is just another one of those.”

He’s had to adjust his practice schedule, not an easy thing to do for a guy who would hit a million balls a day if he could.

“I can’t go all-out,” DeChambeau said. “I can’t do any speed training sessions. I can’t practice for excessive hours (when) I have to figure stuff out. But it’s also allowed me to become a little more -- I guess you could say — a little smarter in how I practice. I’ve got to be careful with things and really be efficient and limit the amount of golf balls I can hit.”

In a way, DeChambeau is relishing his new reality. He’s not the center of attention at Augusta National, where all eyes are on Tiger Woods’ possible comeback and the guys who are playing well.

“When you don’t have everybody yelling your name or chanting whatnot, it kind of can be almost relaxing in a sense,” he said. “It’s kind of been nice going into this year’s Masters just peacefully going about my business.”′

DeChambeau wasn’t able to win the green jacket when his health was good and his confidence soaring.

Can he possibly win with his game in a state of disarray?

Just like that, DeChambeau’s bravado returns.

He never counts himself out.

“We’re finally moving in a direction that I feel is positive for me being able to win again,” DeChambeau said. “I think I can win every time I tee it up.”

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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