Before you make any snap judgements after reading the title of this post, allow me to preface that the question is not aimed at the number of majors Bryson will win, even though he recently crushed the field at the US Open, which – we must admit – was quite Tiger-esque. Instead, this post is to give DeChambeau his due: the baby-faced scientist’s born again baby fat is starting to pay off in a sizeable way, and he may even be changing the state of the game, just like Tiger did almost 25 years ago. But before we dive into DeChambeau, let’s get into our DeLorean and go back to the future to reminisce on how Tiger changed the game.
How Tiger Woods changed the game of golf
If you’re old enough to remember Tiger’s historic win at Augusta in 1997, then you’ll remember how the field of players were in awe at how he dismantled the course:
If your ears perked up around the 5m30s mark of the video, then you’ve likely already been feeling the comparison this past year, but maybe you just haven’t realized it yet. At the ’97 Masters Tiger was hitting his drives 320 yards that week versus Montgomery’s 270 yards. Take a second to think about how many clubs that 50 yards makes. For me, rather than hitting a 5 iron (190 yards) into a green I’d be hitting a 9 iron (140 yards). Yes, please. So what was the response to Tiger crushing the field time after time? The answer is more length – with golf courses, of course.
In 1996, the average length of a PGA golf course was 6,977 yards whereas 20 years later the average has climbed to jaw-dropping 7,218 yards. Augusta, in particular, went from playing a lengthy 6,925 yards to 7,445 yards in 2016 – i.e. 500+ yards more than BTE (Before Tiger Era). That kind of change is another set of tees, which we may as well have coined back then the Tiger Tips. It’s no wonder why Tiger was always favored to win every tournament, and why he almost did win every one. His competitive advantage was tremendous.
Fast forward to 2020 and we’re starting to see something eerily similar take shape…
Will Bryson DeChambeau change the game of golf?
This week, in the Year of COVID, is Masters Week, which is golf’s version of Shark Week; there’s just something about that green jacket that gets us all excited like no other major does. And with Masters Week comes reminisces and predictions, so let’s start with Ian Woosnam, who recently claimed that Bryson DeChambeau could change Augusta this week just like Tiger did in 1997. Now, that’s a bold prediction, but the sentiment is there and shared by many, and it may not be too far off the mark.
I’ll just leave this here for you to have a listen and let it sink into your being for a second:
Of course it does.
Still feeling the same way after reading the title of this post?
Maybe, or maybe that feeling is being updated a little.
But the comparison doesn’t stop here with distance – allow me to pose another question: what does Bryson’s single length irons, jumbo grips, putting with the pin in, and any other crazy experimental tests that he does, have in common with Tiger?
The answer is they all break the status quo in a way that attempts to dissect the game on a level that no other golfer does. Tiger always approached the game like no one else did at the time; whether it’s his keen sense of the difference in spin that mere blades of grass would make, or his trained assassin-like focus and attack, or his acute feel towards knowing when the center of gravity is off by 1/10 of a millimeter on a club, this next-level approach to golf isn’t normal, so it’s no wonder why the two most talked about players going into tomorrow’s first round of the Masters is none other than the reigning champion, Tiger Woods, and the betting odds favorite, Bryson DeChambeau.
Whether or not we’ll all be watching Tiger slip the next green jacket onto his friend’s shoulders this Sunday, we’ll almost certainly be reading more, and more, and more in the coming months about what the PGA will do to tame the Beast that we’ve all come to know as Bryson, now that the “genie’s out of the bag.” But the one thing that is an absolute certainty is that there are many more wins in the Beast’s future, and many more weeks of being the favorite to take each tournament trophy home. Yeah, that does sound familiar.