Bryson DeChambeau’s outrageous power show at the PGA Tour’s comeback event has convinced Colin Montgomerie of the urgent necessity for the governing bodies to introduce a tournament ball.
Like everyone who watched the opening rounds of the Charles Schwab Challenge, Montgomerie was stunned by the transformation of the 26-year-old American. In the Tour’s three-month hiatus, DeChambeau added so much bulk he has gone from a medium in shirts to an extra-large.
And, if anything, the distance which the world No 13 generates in hitting a ball has been even more staggering. In the first round at the tight, treelined Colonial Country Club, he averaged 345 yards. The PGA Tour average in 2019 was 294 yards.
“I’ve put on about 20lb [since the lockdown] and about 45lb in the last nine months,” DeChambeau said after a second successive 65 took him to 10 under par at the halfway point.
“My ultimate goal is to get as strong as I can, applying some force and speed to the swing to see what it can handle.
“I’ve had to change my lofts recently. I’m down to 5½ degrees on the driver and I’m looking to go get a three-wood that’s around 10 degrees. I’m producing so much spin I have to change the clubs themselves. It’s crazy.”
It certainly is. To think, it was not so long ago that DeChambeau, the former physics student, was regarded as the ultimate golf nerd. The former US Amateur champion famously had the shafts on all his irons cut to exactly the same length – 37½in – and kept the club on the same plane throughout his swing and not turn his wrists. Meanwhile, larger grips allowed him to hold the club in his palms and not in his fingers.
Well, the lab coat remains on, but its seams have burst open. In part, his new devotion to the gym was inspired by a back problem, but also by the realisation that length is everything in this “bomb and gouge” culture.
For the creaking spine, DeChambeau has been employing “Muscle Activation Technique”, a systematic approach that targets pain at its source through a set of checks and balances that result in increased stability and mobility. Bulk was the answer and the outcome is a player who suddenly looks conspicuously like the biggest-hitter in the game.
“The transformation has been amazing, I could not believe what I saw when I switched on in the first round – even Bryson’s XL shirts are looking tight now,” Montgomerie told the BBC. “Bryson played with Dustin Johnson the first two days and he was giving him 25 yards off the tee – and Dustin is no slouch … Extraordinary. He is huge.
“It’s great to see athleticism in the game, but to see him carrying 330 yards in the air and with the bounce you are up to 350, 360? This is getting unreal, something we haven’t seen before, a whole new game we are beginning to witness.
“On Friday, Bryson had 10 holes on which he was within 100 yards of the green for his approach. And if you include the four par threes that means there were only four holes on which Bryson was more than 100 yards away for his approach. The game has changed dramatically. It’s now brute force and a sand-wedge.”
Montgomerie believes the “time has come” for the USGA and the R&A to act.
They jointly released a report in February that deduced that the increase in hitting distances and course yardages “is detrimental to the game’s long-term future” Neither the USGA nor the R&A has provided any solutions, but are currently evaluating potential options.
“I’m an advocate of what Jack Nicklaus proposes – a tournament ball for professionals, that goes only 80 to 85 per cent as far,” Montgomerie said.
“The time has come, because we can’t be building courses at 10,000 yards.
“We haven’t the money or the space and there are the obvious ecological reasons. A tournament ball would be a massive step, because of that term “bifurcation” [professionals playing different rules to amateurs]. Yet haven’t we reached that stage, now? We’ve seen at Colonial that something has to be done or these classic courses cannot be used.”