Determining where DeChambeau could drive it at Augusta
November 08, 2020
By Scott Fawcett, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- November 08, 2020
- Bryson DeChambeau led the PGA TOUR in driving distance last season. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
There are always a multitude of storylines heading into the Masters. This year is no different. In fact, there’s more to discuss with the tournament’s unprecedented move to November.
But the biggest question may be about Bryson DeChambeau and what he’ll do to Augusta National with his transformed body and game. This is the first major since DeChambeau destroyed golf’s conventional wisdom with his six-shot victory at the U.S. Open.
The traditional approach to U.S. Opens, especially ones conducted on classic courses like Winged Foot, was to proceed with caution along the rough-lined fairways. DeChambeau turned that theory on its head, bashing away Winged Foot with abandon.
Augusta National is always a course that has favored long hitters. Its wide fairways allow players to be aggressive off the tee. Ever since Tiger Woods dominated the 1997 Masters, the course has taken steps to curb driving distance, but it still remains a huge advantage. Long hitters can carry many of the fairway bunkers and access even wider portions of the fairway.
“On No. 1, to carry the bunker on the right, to carry the bunker on No. 2, to carry the bunker on No. 8, (and) to get it over the hill on 14 and 17, you really want to fly the ball 315-320 minimum,” Phil Mickelson said recently. “That seems like a lot, and it is a lot. It’s just that if you can fly it (that far) there you have a chance to take advantage of some of those holes.”
DeChambeau led the PGA TOUR in driving distance last season. He averaged 325.6 yards off the tee at Winged Foot.
I set out to estimate what DeChambeau is capable of doing off the tee at Augusta National. I’ve known him since his amateur days, when I introduced him to my DECADE course management system. DeChambeau, who won both the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in 2015, credited it with saving him over a shot per round.
I created DECADE in 2014 to bring an analytical approach to course management, an area of the game that was based mostly on tradition, not the troves of data that are now available.
I had no idea how big of a void I was filling in the golf world. Golf is such an emotional sport, and emotions do not help you think clearly in the heat of the battle. DECADE allows less-experienced players to make optimal math-based decisions to score like seasoned veterans.
Emotions also hinder the ability to speculate what might happen in the future. DeChambeau’s dominant U.S. Open victory began a flood of emotional speculation of what he might be capable of doing at Augusta National, or more sinisterly, to Augusta National.
With that said, let’s use math to make our best guess about what we can expect from DeChambeau this week. I overlaid his tee-shot pattern from Winged Foot onto satellite images of Augusta National to estimate where he will hit it this week. Of course a variety of factors, from tee placement to weather and wind, could impact his driving distance but there is no doubt that his tee shots will be the talk of the tournament. He has the opportunity to put on the most dominant driving performance at Augusta National since Woods averaged 323 yards off the tee in 1997, a figure that still has yet to be surpassed.
Below are DeChambeau’s four tee shots on Winged Foot’s first hole: yellow is the first round, purple signifies the second, blue is the third and red is his tee shot from the fourth round. The red lines represent a target/shot pattern that is 65 yards wide and 300 yards from the tee box. (Note: Sixty-five yards is the standard shot dispersion of a PGA TOUR player’s driver.)This aerial image shows where Bryson DeChambeau hit his tee shots on Winged Foot's opening hole in the U.S. Open (Google Earth).
I then repeated that process for every tee shot he hit at Winged Foot by plotting the shots color coded by round and numbered by hole, removed the satellite image, and used the red grid for proper scaling.This image shows DeChambeau's tee shots on Nos. 1 and 2 at Winged Foot, overlaid on the second hole. (Google Earth)
This process produced a single image that contains every tee shot he hit -- except for on the 15th hole because driver was impossible due to water crossing the fairway, something that doesn’t exist at Augusta National.I finished with an overlay that shows every one of DeChambeau's driver tee shots from the U.S. Open. (Courtesy of Scott Fawcett)
Notice the only two tee shots he did not get inside of the 65-yard wide pattern at Winged Foot were on No. 2, when he tried to cut driver over the corner of the dogleg. DeChambeau, for all the talk of his strength, is also incredibly accurate for someone who hits the ball that far. At Winged Foot, he did not have a single big miss when drawing the driver.
The good news for DeChambeau is the two things that aren’t necessary off the tee at Augusta National are 3-woods and left-to-right shots.
In this next image, I removed many of the 3-woods he hit off the tee at Winged Foot as well as the tee shots he tried to fade. I laid that final shot pattern over satellite images from Augusta and here are what his tee shots would look like on No. 9. (For perspective, the red star is where Tiger hit his tee shot in 2019, which left him 168 yards to the hole. The red line is 100 yards to the middle of the green.):I overlaid Bryson's tee shots from the U.S. Open onto Augusta National's ninth hole. The red star is where Tiger Woods drove it in 2019. The red line is 100 yards from the center of the green. (Google Earth)
Next, let’s consider some of the key holes at Augusta National and how they might play with the expected south wind. He’s already discussed blasting his tee shot on 13 into the 14th fairway. A south wind means three of Augusta National’s par-5s, the eighth, 13th and 15th holes, could play downwind. The second hole is severely downhill, which means he may be able to make the 305-yard carry over the fairway bunker, even if the hole plays into the wind.
Yes, you are seeing this correctly. If he were to really connect with a tee shot on No. 9, he would potentially have about 50 yards remaining.
Augusta doesn’t have a single hole with penalty hazards in play on both sides of the hole which means bombs away, or as I like to say on Twitter, “SEND IT!”
What DeChambeau is more than capable of doing to Augusta National might just be the final “You have to be kidding me!” that the year 2020 can deliver.
These next images show where DeChambeau’s drives could end up on two of Augusta National's most famous holes, the 13th and 18th. The red line on each aerial denotes 150 yards from the center of the green. DeChambeau's drives can fly well past that.DeChambeau has discussed hitting his tee shot on 13 all the way through to the 14th fairway. The red line is 150 yards from the center of the green. (Google Earth)Like Tiger Woods did in 1997, DeChambeau could hit his drive on 18 over the fairway bunkers and leave himself just a wedge into the green. (Google Earth)