It is a remarkable feat that Bryson DeChambeau is not cool. He routinely does things that any average weekend golfer—and some professional golfers—would sell their soul to do just once. His average drive this season is 344 yards—no one else is within 12 yards, and that beats the tour average by 46 yards. He can hit the ball 400 yards in the air. If a basketball player could reliably dunk from 16 feet away from the basket, it would be exceptionally hard for him to come across as a bit of a doofus. And yet, here we are: DeChambeau does cool things in such an uncool way that it undoes everything.
DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Open in September and starts the Masters on Thursday as the outright betting favorite, remade his body and his game in less than a year, adding 20 pounds of muscle and more than 40 yards of distance to his drive. In the process, he went from a good, young golfer to a potentially dominant force. He augmented this stunning development by speaking in a way that is indistinguishable from Elon Musk’s appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience. “Sensitivity to air. How I’m perceiving reality,” DeChambeau told Golf Magazine during the U.S. Open, when asked how he felt on the first tee. “It’s very difficult to explain, but essentially I can feel like I do something, but it can come off totally different depending on what reality actually is.” In another interview this year, he proclaimed to GQ: “I mean, my goal is to live to 130 or 140. I really think that’s possible now with today’s technology.” Justin Thomas, another elite golfer and trendy Masters pick, asked, fairly, “What in the hell are you even talking about dude.”
DeChambeau views golf through the same outlandish prism. He takes routes to the hole that are impossible for any other golfer and that would be considered, yes, cool if any other golfer tried them. Earlier this year, he said his plan at the hallowed Augusta National was to play the 13th hole by hitting his ball onto the 14th fairway. He plans to rewrite the most famous American golf course with his ability to swing a club hard and fast. He’s not shy about declaring his intentions in this regard. Earlier this year, he explained exactly how he’d make the sand at Detroit Golf Club irrelevant by blasting it past the 290-yard bunkers and faux-apologized to the course architect, Donald Ross, who died in 1948, saying, “Sorry, Mr. Ross, but, you know, it is what it is.” He won that tournament.
There are fears DeChambeau is breaking the sport and will single-handedly force golf courses to make wholesale changes. He carries himself as if he was a walking, talking version of the galaxy brain meme who picked up a golf club and started doing hammer curls. “I really am about human progress,” he said in July.
Some athletes belong in the Hall of Fame and some belong in the Museum of Modern Art. DeChambeau should probably end up in both. If personality is a series of successful gestures, then DeChambeau has done everything possible to morph into an anti-personality. In just the past few months, he has complained about an anthill near his ball and yelled at a cameraman for not protecting his brand. You could argue pretty successfully that he has the drives of Happy Gilmore and the vibe of Shooter McGavin.
All of this leads to a conclusion that may surprise you: I have learned to love Bryson DeChambeau, and you probably should, too. The current started to change for me in the past two months. Starting, probably, with this video:
The content king has done it again pic.twitter.com/FdlVgV7Sjn— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) October 21, 2020
The writer Martin Amis once said that when he read John Updike, he sighed because he immediately knew he’d have to read everything Updike ever wrote. I had a similar feeling the first time I saw this video: I, too, sighed because I realized I would never again skip over anything DeChambeau does for the rest of his life. If DeChambeau wanted to dig out of his anti-cool hole, well, the solution is to just keep digging, and he’s done that here. This is anti-cool: a guy disembarking alone on a private jet, a Kings of Leon song that was not cool upon its release more than a decade ago, an orange Bentley, a smirk, and an almost unbelievable tag line: “The journey to 215 MPH begins.”
For the non-golfer, this is a reference to ball speed. DeChambeau is obsessed with working at the range and remarking upon his ball speed. He has the fastest speed on the tour at 199 miles per hour. The road to the remaining 16 miles per hour begins, apparently, with an orange Bentley and light alt-rock. Imagine if James Harden, another talented player criticized for his style of play, pivoted in the middle of said criticism to becoming a content lord, leaned into a complete lack of self-awareness, and produced that video. Or this one:
This is also how Hogan prepared for the Masters pic.twitter.com/wdBj04y5iS— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) October 27, 2020
I do not love DeChambeau despite these things; I love him because of them. It is fantastic that he lacks self-awareness to the point that he will continue to produce these scenes. When he wins, he thanks an army of sponsors and pounds either protein shakes or chocolate milk, even after a major victory. Part of DeChambeau’s image problem is rooted in his contrast to Brooks Koepka, the effortlessly cool four-time major champion who is the perfect foil for DeChambeau. Koepka is one of the few golfers who look capable and, in fact, eager to shove DeChambeau into a locker. He is also a content lord:
The answer we’ve all been waiting for pic.twitter.com/YWcqYSzAEN— claire rOGers (@kclairerogers) October 27, 2020
Both golfers are essential to golf’s future. After the cameraman kerfuffle, Koepka dropped a Kenny Powers GIF, jokingly (?) suggesting that DeChambeau was experiencing rage associated with the use of, uh, illegal supplements. There is an impulse to back Koepka over DeChambeau since Koepka can wear a robe on a boat in Florida and pull it off, while DeChambeau reads out his swing tracking numbers on a Twitch stream.
This rivalry is important, but let’s not confuse it with past golf rivalries. In 2006, Rick Reilly drew a line in the sand with his column “YOU A TIGER GUY OR A PHIL GUY?” that sketched out the differences between the caricatures of the sport’s top two players and their respective fan bases. In the ensuing years, Woods’s caricature would change, err, a lot. By now, we’ve mostly settled on agreeing that both guys are awesome. Koepka and DeChambeau are both incapable of being a Tiger or a Phil. Physically, they are both complete outliers in golf history and that is what makes this potential rivalry invigorating for the sport. I think that Koepka will continue to get the vast majority of fans among the two because most golfers would rather be Brooks than Bryson. However, this slightly muddies the truth, which is that most of us already are Bryson but can never be Brooks. Brooks is a level of cool that I can never attain. But a dopey guy working for hours at a time at the range, trying to add distance, gaining more pounds by the hour with no self-awareness? That I can do.
I guess we should have always seen this coming from DeChambeau. Dubbed a “scientist” early in his career, he broke from common equipment by using single-length irons. He borrowed and then rewrote his high school physics book instead of buying one. He has experimented with nearly every facet of the sport from the drive to the putt. He once ran the numbers on the bounce golfers get when they become fathers. Even by the standards of being the sport’s great experimenter, DeChambeau’s last year of bulking up and adding distance has been incredible.
Via the Golf Channel, here is DeChambeau’s eating regimen:
Breakfast: Four eggs, five strips of bacon, toast, two Orgain protein shakes
Throughout day: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, GoMacro bars, snacks, two to three Orgain protein shakes
Dinner: Steak, potatoes, two Orgain protein shakes.
He has, in perfect content lord fashion, helpfully explained his eating habits to basically every media member. Every detail is better than the one before it. Last December, it was revealed that his wardrobe for the Presidents Cup competition no longer fit because he’d been measured for it six months prior, and his chest, neck, and waist size had grown since then. The process worked. Reports are he has impossibly easy shots into every green at Augusta this week.
The future of a sport usually does not hinge on two to three Orgain protein shakes, but well, these are strange times. The impact of DeChambeau’s regimen on his game has become the defining question for modern golf. Even if you despise what DeChambeau is doing to the sport, there’s an accelerationist argument that he’s the perfect avatar for wholesale change. At some point, golf’s governing bodies have to make a ruling on whether modern golf balls and equipment can continue adding distance to every golfers’ game, and DeChambeau making a mockery of Donald Ross’s course designs seems to be the perfect impetus for those bodies to enact changes. When asked about equipment modifications being scaled back, DeChambeau said, incredibly: “They can’t take working out away from me.” Because of course he did. The problem for modern golf is that almost any good golfer can, in theory, do what DeChambeau did: add tons of weight, increase swing speed, and start booming it further than they ever have. That would push the game to where changes would have to be made almost immediately.
DeChambeau’s path will probably include more majors and more stretches of dominance, but the packaging will be different. We’ll never get used to it. The world is used to a dignified type of dominance. Win on Sunday and appear suave in a luxury watch ad on Wednesday. Roger Federer’s grace. Serena Williams’s grace. Lewis Hamilton’s grace. If DeChambeau won two majors a year for a decade, this would never be his image.
If I put my armchair psychologist’s hat on, I’d say that deep in the psyche of golf fans, there’s a fear that DeChambeau is making an impossible game look easy, and that would be a terrible sight. Golf is supposed to be a continuous ride on the struggle bus cushioned by brief moments of triumph. DeChambeau coldly approaches a game that should be mystical, a game that should never appear conquered. At his peak, Tiger Woods played a different sport than everyone else, but at least it looked the same. DeChambeau, if he reaches his logical conclusion, probably threatens the greater golf aesthetic. The wild thing is that most golf experts say that there are many more DeChambeaus on the way from the game’s younger ranks. Perhaps, as with Wood’s 300-yard driving distance 20 years ago, what appears miraculous now will seem pedestrian in a decade. It is what it is, Mr. DeChambeau.