Bryson bound - brainy, bonkers or brilliant?

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An opening round 65 has Dechambeau leading after round one. M. James Ward delves into his myriad of quirks and opines on whether his enormous talents can finally emerge for a green jacket?
Posted on
April 12, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

AUGUSTA, GA. After winning the 2020 U.S. Open by six shots on the devilish West Course at Winged Foot, it appeared the path for Bryson DeChambeau was a skyward rocket with no ceiling.

The cerebral DeChambeau fashioned a remarkable power game off the tee in which all previously defined "monster" courses were essentially declawed against the onslaught of his raw driving power.

Interestingly, DeChambeau in 2020 made a statement that Augusta National was nothing more than "a par-67 course" given his prodigious length and therefore ripe for the taking. Sadly, until Thursday's opening round, it was a bold assertion but one centred more upon empty bluster than actual scorecard reality.

His opening round score of 65 was his career-best at Augusta National and the eight birdies scored were marred only by a single bogey at the 9th. DeChambeau started fast with three consecutive birdies and ended just as strong with five birdies over the final seven holes.

His skills with the flatstick are often undervalued and his acumen on that front was on full display in round one.

"I shot 65 today and that was one of the best rounds of golf I've played in a long time," DeChambeau said. "There's three more days to go, and I'm not losing sight of that fact - that it's right there in front of me. Just got to go execute."

The 2024 Masters marks Bryson's 8th and, remarkably, his best result came in his first visit when he was low amateur with a T21 finish. He also shared the first-round lead in 2018.

Amazingly, in all of his professional career he has only had four top ten finishes in the major championships. The feint whispers in the shadows were beginning to grow louder that DeChambeau was spinning his wheels.

The issue for Bryson boiled down to whether his inherent gifts as a golfer could escape his own self-generated eccentricities that far too often became the dominant storyline. The side shows becoming more prevalent and distracting from the task in showing the results on the golf course.

While some have labelled Bryson brainy, an equally high number of others have labelled him unflattering variations of the word bonkers.

Bryson DeChambeau bound - brainy, bonkers or brilliant?
(Charlie Riedel/AP)

DeChambeau bolted to rival league LIV in June 2022 after winning eight times on the PGA TOUR. In 2023 Bryson demonstrated his abundant golfing skills – winning twice including scoring consecutive rounds of 61-58 in winning the Greenbriar event.

Potential is the often-used word for talent. However, the more meaningful word is production. Plenty have the former – few the latter.

DeChambeau has had more off-course storylines featuring juvenile jousts whether with his former equipment company Cobra, or the inane juvenile verbal byplay with Brooks Koepka who mercilessly teased him.

The golf journey is one of ever-changing circumstances. Some learn and prosper - others wither and fade away.

DeChambeau admitted as much.

"I'm not a perfect person. Everybody messes up. You learn from your mistake (August National as a par-67 course), and that was definitely one."

Self-reflection can serve as a powerful launching pad. DeChambeau's past journey was a rollicking romp with plenty of self-created potholes. But if a change of mindset is truly now embedded from within it may be the pathway for Bryson to accomplish what many saw as possible.

Bryson DeChambeau bound - brainy, bonkers or brilliant?
(Eric Gay/AP)

"I'm not trying new things, not doing new things," DeChambeau said. "I'm just doing more of the same. That's what's been different from a couple years ago to now. I'm just doing the same thing every single day, day in and day out. "I'm not trying something out. And that's what I feel like has accumulated into playing some really good golf."

54 holes remain at Augusta for DeChambeau. He holds a one-shot lead over the world-ranked number one player Scottie Scheffler. Having the two paired together for Saturday's third round would be an acid test.

Labeled the "Mad Scientist" and "bulky basher" – DeChambeau has an opportunity to add new chapters to his never dull story. But the central emphasis now is focused on being an elite golfer.

The 30-year-old now understands like sands in an hour glass the world is in constant motion. No matter one's talent level – all such skills come with an expiration date.

A green jacket could be the launching pad for an even more impactful career.

For Bryson – that time is now.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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