Column: DeChambeau doing it his way with no one following
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — It took Webb Simpson winning at Harbour Town to stop getting questions about Bryson DeChambeau.
Not that he minded.
They played together the opening two rounds of the RBC Heritage, and Simpson was not oblivious to the main topic of conversation the last two weeks that did not include nasal swabs and social distancing.
DeChambeau has transformed himself with an incredible bulk over the last eight months.
He says he has added about 40 pounds of mass through diet (“I eat whatever I want whenever) and working out. He is hitting it longer than anyone, even while restricted in smaller arenas like Colonial and Harbour Town. On the 331-yard ninth last week, he opted for 3-wood because he felt driver would have flown the green.
After the 2001 Ryder Cup was postponed, Stewart Cink went on a diet that he said caused him to lose weight everywhere but his shins. DeChambeau appears to have gained weight everywhere except his head. The hat size is the same.
“There’s not very many muscles up here that I can train around the brain,” DeChambeau said.
The objective is to get the speed of his golf ball coming off the club approaching 200 mph, to release the “Kraken” — his favorite word last week — and shrink courses with big drives and shorter irons. That’s not anything that hasn’t been tried before, except for going up two shirt sizes in the process.
For all the talk about the long ball, Simpson had the lowest score, the ultimate measure.
“It’s very satisfying knowing I’m not near as long as some of these guys and I’m able to use my skills of distance control and shot shape to pick me back up when I’m 40 yards or 30 yards behind these guys,” he said after taking the 36-hole lead. “I would like to hit it further. I set out on a journey three years ago to get stronger, hit it further, but do it a lot slower than Bryson. But he’s made it look seamless.”
Simpson said he weighs 20 pounds more than he did at the start of 2017. He said he can get ball speed in the lower 170s now and wants to get up around 177 mph. That would be a 20 mph difference from DeChambeau, or the speed limit of most roads in the Sea Pines Resort.
DeChambeau can’t argue with the results, whether it’s the combination of length and accuracy or the score on his card. He still hasn’t won since 18 months ago in Dubai, but he is on a run of five straight top 10s.
It’s hard to call this experiment a mistake, and only a few players have raised the possibility of introducing injury. Most praise DeChambeau for no other reason than taking a different path and having a relentless work ethic to get there.
That might be the most predictable trait of DeChambeau: He rarely fails because he never stops trying.
“If he’s going to put the work in and go do everything, you can’t sit here and complain about him hitting it too far,” Brooks Koepka said. “He’s just taking advantage of technology. He’s obviously had to put in work. I think that’s what people forget. You’ve actually got to put in the work when no one is watching and he’s done that.”
No one is lining up to buy the manual, either, if DeChambeau decides to write one.
Different always stands out, even in a sport where few swings — or even approaches to the game — look alike. Plus, it adds to DeChambeau’s reputation of leaning on science to think outside the box.
He won the biggest amateur events with his single-length shafts, and there was talk whether this would revolutionize golf. It hasn’t, though it works for him. Air pressure and adrenaline are among the nine calculations he considers before a shot.
There’s always something with DeChambeau, and probably always will.
Tiger Woods changed his swing after winning the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, changed coaches after winning his eighth majors, made two more swing changes and won the Masters last year for the fifth time at age 43. DeChambeau is similar in one regard. He’s chasing something that will make him better, and this body transformation is an example.
“I got bored,” he said. “I love the game of golf, and I love the journey that it takes me on, and I want to keep pursuing different avenues to try to get better, be the best that I can possibly be. And I felt like this is one that I could accomplish.”
Collin Morikawa said: “For him hitting it that hard and swinging that hard, props to him because he’s figured it out, and I’m sure he’s still going to keep pushing those boundaries. Whether I see it down the road like that for everyone, I don’t know. I think if you started to see him win every single week and everyone else was just being blown out of the field, maybe guys will start doing that.
“It’s a different perspective. It’s a different game he’s playing. I’m sure it’s a very different way of thinking throughout the course, how he navigates courses, how he sees shots,” Morikawa said. “But that’s him.”
The one and only.