By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Bryson DeChambeau pulled his first two drives, hit his tee shot into shrubbery at the fourth and never recovered on his way to a dismal four-over-par 76 in the opening round at the Masters on Thursday.
One of the pre-tournament favourites, DeChambeau is the longest hitter in the field, and he unveiled a new driver that he hopes will make him even longer.
But golf is about more than brute strength, and his accuracy and judgment were sadly lacking at Augusta National as he failed to take advantage of benign late afternoon conditions after the wind abated.
He will need a near miracle to win now, 11 strokes behind English leader Justin Rose.
No winner has come from more than seven shots behind after 18 holes here.
“I personally didn’t swing it that bad, just it’s golf, man,” he said.
Though he got away with some poor drives early, DeChambeau’s day started to unravel at the par-three fourth, where he almost lost his ball in thick bushes behind the green, only locating it with the help of playing competitor Adam Scott.
Five months ago at the previous hole DeChambeau actually lost a ball on the third hole, unable to find it within the allowed three minutes.
This time he was able to stab his ball out of the bushes, disaster seemingly averted, only to three-putt from off the putting surface.
It hardly got better after that.
He could not bottle the magic of that runaway six-shot win at last year’s U.S. Open, where he produced a bludgeoning display of never-seen-before brute force that overwhelmed the Winged Foot course.
Ever the analyst, DeChambeau pondered how to stage a comeback here on a course that he said placed demands on his game not seen elsewhere.
“I need to understand how the ball flies off of downhill slopes into uphill greens, and conversely uphill slopes into downhill greens, and all of the above,” he said.
“We just can’t calculate and adjust the numbers very well.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)