While many of golf’s elite stars were off chasing the sun during the winter break, Bryson DeChambeau was working tirelessly in the gym at his California base in a bid to bulk up for the new campaign.
Through a strict weights programme, the 26-year-old increased his bodyweight from 88kg to 104kg – an overall rise of 16kg – so he could produce more force and strike the ball further.
And while the American himself is encouraged by the changes in his physique and power, many golf commentators have questioned his decision to get bigger, believing it will be detrimental to his game.
But DeChambeau, the man with a degree in physics, is not your average golfer. He is nicknamed the ‘Mad Scientist’ for a reason and definitely takes a scientific approach to the game, with each of his clubs measuring 37.5 inches and built with a 7-iron shaft.
Most golf sets, in comparison, get progressively shorter as the club increases.
DeChambeau, in the past, has received criticism from his peers about his slow play and his inability to control his emotions. But, nevertheless, he is a compelling and successful player and knows better than anyone what could propel him to more promising heights going forward.
Desperate to avenge the five-over par 77 which saw him miss the cut in Abu Dhabi last week, the American produced rounds of 70-67-70-76 to finish in a tie for eighth at the Dubai Desert Classic this weekend.
A strong performance – at times – but mixed with inconsistent ball-striking in tough, windy conditions.
He had opportunities to win a second Dallah Trophy on Sunday, especially on the back nine, but wayward shots and erratic putting saw him post four successive bogeys. Included in that was an awful shot in the water on the 18th.
For as disappointing a finish as it may be, much of DeChambeau’s weekend should bolster belief in his game again, especially after a period last year when he looked devoid of the magic touch he displayed 10 months ago.
Fresh from four wins, two runners-up and an additional four top-10s in 2018, DeChambeau went on to clinch victory in Dubai last February and reach a career-high fifth in the world rankings.
But since his T46 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March, his game has been loose and he has looked fragile mentally in pressure situations. In the process, he subsequently slipped to 17th in the rankings.
“It’s getting more comfortable on the golf course, recognising the fact that I’m not perfect, I’ve made mistakes in the past,” he said in a press conference last week.
“That’s my whole goal for the game of golf – it’s not only to make myself a better player, but to have people have a more enjoyable experience when I’m around. That’s really what I’m trying to do.”
He points to his decision to bulk up in the off-season as a way to improve his driving distance. But judging by his statistics on the PGA Tour in 2019, his aggression off the tee is quite strong and it’s between 100-200 yards where he needs to improve most.
One can’t argue with his form off the tee, ranked 34th in driving distance (302.5 yards) and 66th in accuracy on all drives (65 per cent).
To underline why he needs to tighten up on his short game, he ranked 115th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green (-.016) last season and 113th in Greens in Regulation (66.2 per cent).
It’s the irons that need dusting rather than the driver.
A new year though comes with new opportunities. A chance to make amends for previous disappointments and to challenge at as many tournaments as possible.
Dubai is only the second tournament on his 2020 schedule so there will be plenty of chances to shine as the year goes on.
The majors, the Ryder Cup, the Olympics will all be on the players’ mind and, no doubt, every one of them will have ambitions of lifting trophies and collecting medals during the season.
While DeChambeau’s overall game may have been off-colour for the second half of 2019, he looks to be slowly rediscovering his magical formula again, despite his minor meltdown on the final four holes on Sunday.
He is going to have to take time to adjust to his bulked-up physique and having to move more quickly around the course, but coupled with his strong skillset, the intelligent DeChambeau is sure to be a force in a crucial 10 months ahead.
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