‘Mad scientist’ Bryson DeChambeau finds value in old truths to lead Masters

Bryson DeChambeau leads by one shot after the first round of the 2024 Masters. Picture: Andrew Redington / Getty Images via AFP

Bryson DeChambeau leads by one shot after the first round of the 2024 Masters. Picture: Andrew Redington / Getty Images via AFP

Published Apr 12, 2024


A first round of the Masters that began with old-time nostalgia ended with the decidedly modern Bryson DeChambeau on top of the leaderboard after he tamed the Augusta wind with an outstanding demonstration of precision.

Spectators who climbed up to a damp first tee after Thursday's early morning rain eased off were rewarded with the sight of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson getting proceedings underway as honorary starters.

For a few minutes, all the talk of rival tours, merger negotiations and multi-million-dollar contracts gave way to the warm glow of memories rekindled as three popular former champions offered a reminder of past glories.

Walk down the hill and head past the old scoreboard, though, and there's a reminder that for all Augusta National's old-school charm, it's very much a modern business.

Fans formed long lines to fill up shopping bags with merchandise from the club shop, which by some estimates brings in $1 million an hour during Masters week.

By then, it was down to business on the course as well and DeChambeau was collecting birdies almost as quickly as shop cashiers were swiping credit cards.

DeChambeau is associated with many of the trends of modern players that leave the older generation shaking their heads.

'Mad Scientist'

Earlier in his career, the American was so obsessed with distance from the tee that he used the kind of driver made specifically for long-drive competitions and worked on upper body strength obsessively in the gym.

He's also a player who has gone into such detail about his equipment and fine tuning to his personal needs that he was nicknamed the "Mad Scientist."

DeChambeau is also active on social media, with a popular golf YouTube channel, and he is among 13 Masters starters on the breakaway LIV Golf tour.

For years, he ruffled the feathers of many with his boast that his powerful driving made Augusta a "par-67" course for him.

However unwise that comment was - and he himself calls it "a mistake" - he made a case for it when he took the course.

DeChambeau was impeccable from the outset - a 299-yard drive to the left of the fairway landing his approach six feet from the hole and making birdie.

The 2020 US Open champion was over the back of the green in two on the par-5 second, getting up and down for another birdie.

On the par-4 third, he was again perfect from the tee and accurate with his wedge to make birdie again.

He started well, kept out of trouble and then finished well with birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th.

DeChambeau ended with a first round of seven-under par 65 with eight birdies and a solitary bogey on the ninth, the only blemish on his scorecard.

"In order to win major championships, you've got to, especially out here, you've got to do everything well," he said after his round.

DeChambeau, 30, appears more comfortable in accepting some of golf's eternal truths that Nicklaus and company expounded upon earlier.

He was asked about his "Mad Scientist" time and his "Bulky Basher" era and was asked which phase he would say he was in now?

"The golf phase. I'd say the golf phase for sure. Trying to be the best golfer I can be," he said.

DeChambeau spoke on the virtue of patience and accepts being at a stage in his career where he's no longer trying to battle the world.

"It's more just getting older. I'm not old... but it has definitely taken time to get comfortable and getting to a place where no matter what happens today, I'm OK," he said.

"I have a level of respect for this golf course that's a little bit different than a couple years ago, and clearly today was a great test of golf, and I was able to conquer a very difficult golf course."

While the calmer, more thoughtful DeChambeau is to the fore, his self-belief remains strong.

"I shot 65 and that was one of the best rounds of golf I've played in a long time," he said. "There's three more days to go and I'm not losing sight of that fact."