As the old adage goes “if you can’t beat them, join them.”
During 2020, no golfer has arguably been more talked about than Bryson DeChambeau.
The addition of 40 pounds of muscle during lockdown catapulted him to the top of the PGA Tour’s driving distance rankings. That prodigious driving also helped DeChambeau blitz his way to his maiden major victory at the US Open.
But it’s the methods he’s employed to revamp his game – which initially others questioned – which has made some of his contemporaries sit up and take notice and start to experiment with their own training regimes and approach to golf.
Former world No. 1 Justin Thomas recently told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell that he is “trying to get stronger” after seeing what DeChambeau has done.
Meanwhile four-time major winner Rory McIlroy admitted that he’s also looking to bring some added speed to his game in an attempt to just keep up with the 2020 US Open winner.
“For the last couple weeks, I was working on some stuff,” said McIlroy ahead of the CJ Cup in October. “I think as a golfer, we’re so ingrained to trying to hit the ball where you’re looking, and I think that’s one of the great things that Bryson’s done.
“Bryson, when he speed trains, he just hits the ball into a net, so he doesn’t really know where it’s going,” added McIlroy.
“He’s just trying to move as fast as he can … and sort of making the target irrelevant for the time being and then you can sort of try to bring it in from there.
“From what I’ve done and what I’ve been trying – you know, sort of experimenting with the last couple weeks – it’s the fastest I’ve ever moved the club, the fastest my body has ever moved.”
In a league of his own
It’s not as if McIlroy is struggling for driving distance. In the early stages of the 2021 PGA Tour season, he had the third highest average of 333.4 yards. He’s now in fifth on 325.3, but in 2017 and 2018, McIlroy led the tour in average driving distance.
But DeChambeau is still streaks ahead of the Northern Irishman in terms of average driving distance, averaging 344.4 yards this season.
During the American’s explosive six-shot victory at Winged Foot Golf Course at US Open, McIlroy was tied for eighth spot, a whopping 10 shots behind DeChambeau.
And the 31-year-old found it “hard to really wrap” his head around what DeChambeau was doing.
“He’s worked his ass off to do that and it’s paying off hugely,” McIlroy said.
“I think it’s the way the game’s going. I got sent a really good article last weekend, it was in the Wall Street Journal, just about every single sport becoming faster, longer, stronger, and I don’t think golf’s any different. I’m just trying to keep up with the way it’s going.”
As players fine tune their preparations for the Masters, which starts on Thursday, November 12, by playing in other events, DeChambeau has adopted a different approach, according to golf.com.
There were four PGA Tour events between the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October and The Masters. DeChambeau chose to not to take part in any of those events.
After competing at the TPC Summerlin tournament, DeChambeau says he was planning to work “out like crazy” in attempt to add even more muscle, before focusing on his driving.
“I don’t know how many drivers I’ll hit, but I’ll hit as many as I need to,” DeChambeau said. “And from a speed-training perspective, I could probably go upwards of over 1,000 to probably 2,000, around 2,000 drives the next four weeks trying to get my speed up.”
And according to Justin Rose, there’s a “trickle down effect” inspired by DeChambeau.
“I’m hearing kind of rumors out on the range, everyone’s trying to crank it up a little bit, get a few more miles an hour,” Rose told reporters.
Even 2017 PGA Championship winner Thomas, who admits he thought DeChambeau’s attempts to overhaul his game weren’t “going to work that well,” is now full of praise for the 27-year-old.
“He just won a major at one of the hardest golf courses in the world. And at the end of the day, as far as he hits it, as strong as he’s gotten, as much weight as he’s put on, he putts the crap out of it to be perfectly honest. I mean, he putts it really well and that’s why he won that US Open.
“It’s not because he can hit it 360 yards. It’s because he putts it really well and he’s a complete golfer. And I think that’s starting to show. But it’s definitely an advantage how far he hits it. And it’s pretty cool.
“He’s getting some of us out here to try to find that extra gear. But at the end the day, he’s going to continue to work hard and try to get stronger.
“And you just hope that he doesn’t hurt himself like a lot of, I guess, other people have trying to get stronger and get fit. But I know that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to get stronger. But most importantly, I’m trying to continue to play injury free.”