Tiger Woods changed golf at the 1997 Masters. A former champion believes Bryson DeChambeau could alter it this week at Augusta, too.
After watching DeChambeau smash his way to the U.S. Open title, Ian Woosnam wonders what golf might look like if the 27-year-old dominates the Masters field with another powerful performance.
“I am honestly worried what Bryson DeChambeau could do to the place,” Woosnam, who won the 1991 Masters, told The Telegraph. “It might be amazing to watch him hitting it these distances, but I don’t think it is good for the game. I’m also concerned that swinging it this hard is not good for the modern player. It could be a situation where it’s a five-year window and then basically you’re burnt out after that.
“If DeChambeau does take Augusta apart then I wouldn’t be surprised if the Masters bring out a tournament ball for their future events. They have the power to do it.”
DeChambeau, who gained more than 40 pounds this year to bulk up, recently took off six weeks to enhance his already peerless power. He reportedly showcased “jaw-dropping” length in a practice round at the Masters, according to former champion Sandy Lyle. During the round, DeChambeau hit drives of more than 400 yards, needing a 7-iron on his second shot to reach the green of the 570-yard, par-5 No. 8 hole, and sailing past the green with his 3-wood of the 350-yard, par-3 hole No. 3, according to Carl Paulson.
If DeChambeau strikes the ball as well this week, Woosnam expects him to collect another major.
“People are saying it could be like what Tiger Woods did there in 1997, but it could be even more so, I reckon,” Woosnam said. “Think about it — Bryson could have just a sand-iron to the first, a nine-iron with his second to the [par-5] second, drive the [par-4] third with a three-wood.
“At the 13th, if he launches it over those trees, we could see a pro actually taking a sand-wedge with his second to a par five. The course is 7,400 yards, but it could be like 6,200 yards for him. What would Augusta think about that?”
By next year, though, Woosnam thinks the Masters could even the playing field with a new type of ball.
“There have been all the reports about a new tee on the 13th, but there’s a whisper that they’ve delayed putting it in because the ball might be changed. And I think it’s going to have to be the ball that golf changes as they won’t do anything [to the rest of the equipment] because of the manufacturers,” Woosnam said. “Let the manufacturers sell what they like to the amateurs, but the pros use something else. Otherwise, what are we going to do with great golf courses? You can’t just keep expanding them because there isn’t that much land and it is not environmentally right, is it? And Winged Foot showed that with the way they can launch these balls out of the rough, that’s not much of a defense either. You’ve got to build courses for the members, not for the pros, because they only play every now and again on them.
“How can you put someone like DeChambeau on any layout you’d call average or even tough? He’d absolutely destroy it. And it’s not going to stop. I have a bad back and I’m longer now than I was in my prime. Crazy. But back then, with the balata ball there was far less margin for error. It was like kicking one of them light footballs on the beach — if you don’t get it right, it goes all over the place. With these balls, it seems the harder you hit it, the straighter it goes and that’s why DeChambeau has realized that the game is now all about how fast you can swing it.”
That, Woosnam said, is not necessarily good for the game.
“Look, I’m not saying it’s not impressive, because it is, and he’s obviously put so much analysis and work into this,” he said. “Good luck to him. But what about the professional game as a spectacle, what about shot-making and imagination? You need the game to have more feel. There was nothing better than watching Tom Watson. Tiger uses a softer ball than anybody else so he can still shape shots and that’s why I’d love to see him win again. Because he is an artist and I know what he had to go through with his back to come back.”