(CBSDFW.COM) — Bryson DeChambeau returned from the PGA Tour’s coronavirus hiatus 20 pounds heavier. The difference was noticeable as he walked the course at Colonial. The extra muscle also showed itself off the tee, where the 240-pound ex-SMU Mustang led the Charles Schwab Challenge field in driving.
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To be precise, DeChambeau dominated the field in driving, gaining over seven strokes off the tee. Xander Schauffele, the runner-up in the category, picked up just under five strokes, and seven other players were within two strokes of him. DeChambeau also led in average length (340.4 yards) and hit almost 59 percent of greens in regulation.
After five PGA Tour events this year, DeChambeau is on pace to break the single-season record for average driving distance. (Hank Kuehne set it at 321.4 yards in 2003.) The first four of his 2020 tournaments occurred before he added bulk, and the fifth was held on a course that doesn’t allow a player to really unleash his driver.
“He has enough confidence with the long game to go ahead and hit driver in places that other players don’t,” noted CBS Sports on-course reporter Dottie Pepper. “I am particularly impressed with it. With all the length he has added, as he’s gotten bigger and stronger, it looks like he’s actually more flexible. The golf club is in a deeper position, and he’s actually hitting the golf ball straighter. So the science has worked.”
How much better will it work when/if he reaches 270 pounds?
Driving can’t carry a player at Colonial Country Club, which is considered more of a shot-maker’s course. DeChambeau stayed close through Sunday and gave himself a chance at the win closer to the green. He was on pace to be part of the Sunday playoff before bogeying the 17th hole. That would be his undoing, as he went on to finish one stroke back in a tie for third.
Charles Schwab was his fourth top-five Tour finish of his five events this year. At Harbour Town, which, like Colonial, doesn’t favor the bombers, DeChambeau will once again look to top the leaderboard. “I like him [as a favorite], because he’s played here and played okay here,” said CBS Sports on-course reporter Dottie Pepper.
DeChambeau actually made his pro debut at Harbour Town back in 2016. The golf world was already familiar with his unorthodox approach to the game four years ago. He was the young player with the Ben Hogan cap, an interest in physics and a bag full of irons all the same length.
“I think by making all the shafts the same length, putting the same posture in, same everything, they will be able to hit the golf ball a lot easier and a lot more efficiently, and they will like it a lot more. It could revolutionize the game of golf in the future,” the then-amateur said at the time. “It’s a very unique, oddball way of playing golf. But it works for me, and I think down the road, for the future of the game, it could be beneficial.”
The Mad Scientist tied for fourth at the 2016 RBC Heritage with a score of six-under par, and moved up into a tie for third two years later, with a score of 11-under. He missed the cut in his other two appearances. DeChambeau has five victories on the PGA Tour to date, including a four-stroke win at the 2018 Northern Trust in the first round of the FedExCup Playoffs and a two-stroke win at the Dell Technologies Championship a week later.
Chasing distance can have its drawbacks for players who don’t develop other parts of their game. If DeChambeau contends again this week — he is among the favorites — it won’t be solely because of his driver. Harbour Town rewards players who play with precision. While the limited results from his latest experiment show promise, DeChambeau will have to get it done around the green to take home a championship.
Watch the RBC Heritage Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 3:00 – 6:00 PM ET on CBS.