NORTON, Mass. – Golf is about getting the ball in the hole using as few strokes as possible. Easy, right?
For decades golfers blended course management skills acquired through experience with finesse and power to do that, but over the past few decades, power’s importance has ballooned. The USGA and R&A are not keen on the increase in distance, and the sport’s governing bodies were compelled to say so in a report released in February.
To that, Bryson DeChambeau says, “Hold my protein shake.”
Before this season, the 26-year-old had already won five PGA Tour events, including the 2018 Northern Trust, and he ended 2019 ranked No. 14 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Sure, he was bigger and more muscular than when he arrived on the PGA Tour in 2016, but lots of guys fill out as they go through their 20s.
Little did we know that a long-term plan was well underway. After a three-month hiatus from the PGA Tour during the coronavirus pandemic, DeChambeau has unleashed the most power-focused game golf has ever seen, and he is becoming a fixture near the top of the leaderboard.
Three years ago, DeChambeau asked his trainer, Greg Roskopf, a question. “What is the end game in all of this, in all this neuromuscular training and working out?’” Roskopf replied that he wasn’t sure because no athlete had ever, “gone the distance.”
To that, DeChambeau said, “I’m willing to go the distance, and we went the distance. We built an amazing foundation to where I can go in and work out and tolerate all these forces. I found tools, unique tools that allowed me to repair my body to where I can train every single day and recover each and every day.”
So, what we see now is the result of work that has been going on in the background since 2017, his second year on the PGA Tour.
Bryson DeChambeau at the 2020 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Photo by Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports
Consider this: In 2003, Hank Kuehne averaged 321.4 yards per tee shot, becoming the only golfer to finish a season with a driving distance average over 320 yards. Entering this week’s Northern Trust, the first event of the 2020 FedEx Cup playoffs, DeChambeau is averaging 323.9 yards, up over 21 yards from last season.
“I truly felt like I started to become an athlete probably around December of this past year,” DeChambeau said during a pre-tournament press conference Tuesday. “I started moving weights up quite a bit, and when I was with Greg in Denver, we just kept upping the weight, and I’m like, ‘Man, I did not think I would be able to tolerate all these forces going through my body,’ and I kept recovering well after that.”
If you think DeChambeau’s emphasis on lifting weights, chugging up to six protein shakes a day and concentrating so much on distance is misguided, you will have a hard time making your argument after seeing his results.
DeChambeau has played seven events since the PGA Tour restarted in June and earned a top-eight finish in five, including a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and a T-4 two weeks ago at the PGA Championship.
This season, DeChambeau is also the PGA Tour’s leader in scoring average at 68.8, which is down about a shot and a half from last season (70.2) when he ranked a very respectable 20th.