Big drives punctuate Bryson DeChambeau's first 2020 Masters practice round
On any ordinary Monday at the Masters, they would’ve drawn the largest crowd.
The featured foursome checked all the boxes for a crowd-pleasing good time. Defending champion Tiger Woods joined pre-tournament favorite Bryson DeChambeau, popular 1992 champion Fred Couples and Justin Thomas, the superstar who seems bound for at least one green jacket in his career.
Rather than tee off with patrons 10-deep lining the fairway, they walked in relative solitude to the 10th tee at Augusta National Golf Club at 11:35 a.m., spending a leisurely two hours on the second nine. Each player hit multiple tee shots on most holes, and the group hunkered down on the greens, pitching and putting to understand the slopes and the speed required to succeed in the 84th Masters Tournament.
Photos: DeChambeau's Monday Practice
A couple dozen media members and tournament officials followed along. Most eyes and words focused on DeChambeau, the U.S. Open champion and PGA Tour driving distance leader. He didn’t disappoint, unleashing one bomb after another.
The 61-year-old Couples spent time around DeChambeau last year at the Presidents Cup matches. Couples was an assistant captain, and DeChambeau played for the winning U.S. side. But this was the first time they’d played together since professional golf resumed in June and DeChambeau returned to golf, 30 yards longer than before.
“On the 11th hole (505 yards) he had a pitching wedge (for his second shot), so four days of that is a huge advantage,” Couples said. “He drove it there, he should never make a bogey. Even if he makes par everyday he’s going to pick up a shot on most people.”
DeChambeau outdrove Woods and Thomas by at least 25 yards on the hole.
On 13, as expected, DeChambeau launched a towering missile over the statuesque pines, cutting the corner and splitting the fairway, within 130 yards of the front of the green on the 510-yard par 5. After the ball finally fell from the blue sky and landed on the lush green turf, it hopped forward one yard.
“It’s phenomenal,” Couples said. “He’s a very talented player. Hits it hard and drives it really, really straight. 13 that’s a no-brainer for him, there’s no other way he should play the hole and he’s worked at it pretty hard.”
DeChambeau averaged 299.6 yards (26th in the field) off the tee in last year’s Masters. He’s averaging 344.4 yards through eight rounds in the 2020-21 season.
The line he’s eyeing off the 13th tee is similar to the one left-handed Bubba Watson favored on his march to the title in 2012 and 2014.
“With the length, I’ve had to relearn the golf course,” DeChambeau said. “There are so many holes that play so much differently with this wind, especially if it stays this way. The course is really soft right now, but I’m sure it will firm up.”
DeChambeau said “home run” before he took a massive swing that produced 193 miles-per-hour ball speed on the 15th tee.
After experimenting with a 48-inch driver at home, DeChambeau opted not to try it at Augusta National this year. It’s not as if he needs the additional length.
“Even if he hits it 320, it’s very straight for going at it that hard,” Couples said.
Making his 35th start, Couples also finished runner-up in the 1998 Masters and tied for third in 2006. One of the Tour’s longer hitters for decades, he watched Tiger Woods overpower Augusta National in his record-setting victory in 1997 and didn’t think he’d play long enough to see a player possessing a similar advantage in power.
“I’ve never seen a guy hit a ball that far,” Couples said. “When I played there were long hitters and then guys that were a little longer. If he can do that for the week, and putt like he is, he’ll be the guy to beat.”