Bryson DeChambeau snaps driver during PGA Championship opening round
DeChambeau may just have inadvertently answered that initial question after another show of brute force off the tee during the PGA Championship’s opening round in San Francisco — an event taking place in front of no fans in what is now the first major of 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But this was no career-best drive distance-wise from the physically transformed, bulked-up US golfer. This was a broken club.
So what exactly happened to the club DeChambeau calls ‘The Kraken’ on day one at TPC Harding Park on Thursday?
Just seconds after crushing an ultimately errant drive on the seventh hole with his now trademark lightning-fast swing, DeChambeau — who piled on an extra 40 pounds of muscle during golf’s Covid-19 shutdown — moved forward to pick up his tee.
But that’s when things started to fall apart. Quite literally.
The 26-year-old — who’s never had a top-10 finish at a major — then apparently leant on his driver to such an extent that the club’s head actually fell off the shaft, much to the amazement of his playing partners, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott.
The world No.7 — who ended his opening round three shots behind co-leader and 2015 champion Jason Day and level with four-time winner Woods — later revealing the driver had become a well-worn tool in his bag.
“This material isn’t going to last forever,” he explained after finishing with a two-under 68.
“No matter how strong you make it, but that thing has lasted over a year swinging it over 200 mile-an-hour ball speeds. I’d say it’s done pretty well.”
Meanwhile Scott, the 2013 Masters winner, had a front row seat for the surreal chain of events.
“It definitely made a funny sound and the ball had a funny flight and then he hardly even leaned on it and the shaft snapped. He says it happens when you swing as hard as him.”
But things could have been much worse for DeChambeau.
He’ll have been mightily relieved to learn that under local rules introduced last year, he was allowed to replace what’s now his most potent golfing weapon — he is the PGA Tour’s biggest hitter, with an average drive distance of 324.4 yards — because his mishap was entirely accidental.
It still meant a team member had to make a trip to DeChambeau’s car to get a replacement shaft for his club as he himself went on to complete the hole while then having to complete his own repair job just to get the new shaft back on.
But the enforced change didn’t hamper him too much. The very next time he needed his driver was on the ninth hole, which he birdied.
In fact, DeChambeau responded superbly to adversity, striking the ball an average of almost 20 yards further after his club broke, averaging just shy of 340 yards.
The Californian — who recently claimed his sixth PGA Tour title in Detroit at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where his drives were averaging over a record 350 yards — says he’d even tested the replacement in the build-up to the tournament, revealing he “knew it was going to work.”
“To be able to put another shaft right back in and have that thing perform amazing, it just shows how amazing that company is.”
A return to form?
Having spent five-months away from golf because of a back injury and the pandemic, Woods returned to competitive action last month, tying for 40th at the Memorial Tournament.
But he fared better during his opening round at the year’s first major, as he was back on familiar ground at TPC Harding Park having played there as a junior and at Stanford University.
He finished with a two-under 68, his lowest opening round in a major since 2012.
The 44-year-old is chasing a record-equaling fifth PGA Championship title, with Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus winning five each. He is also in search of an 83rd PGA Tour victory, as he’s currently tied with Sam Snead for the most all-time.
One of the most notable changes Woods has made to his game is that he’s switched to a longer putter, something that’s taken the strain off his back.
And the switch showed positive signs on Thursday, as he made 114 feet, 9 inches of putts, his season-high for one round.
“I’ve been messing around with this putter for the better part of over a year,” the 15-time major winner explained. “It’s difficult for me to bend over at times, and so practicing putting, I don’t spend the hours I used to.
“It wasn’t unusual for me to spend four, five, six hours putting, per day. I certainly can’t log that with my back being fused. Most of the guys on the Champions Tour have gone to longer putters as they have gotten older, because it’s easier to bend over, or not bend over. And so this putter is just a little bit longer and I’ve been able to spend a little bit more time putting.”
Brooks Koepka, searching for a third consecutive PGA Championship title, sits one shot behind the co-leaders, Australian Day and Brendon Todd.