The restart of the PGA Tour has had one and only one headline week to week. Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa’s moments of brilliance were fun, Webb Simpson’s herky-jerky dominance was fun, but there’s one man who has the juice right now, and his name is Bryson Dechambeau.

From the second he joined the tour, Dechambeau has been a solid player. With 6 worldwide wins before the 2020 season, but no major top-tens, Bryson has been a first-rate second-tier guy on the course. It’s off the course where he has separated himself from the pack.

Dechambeau has branded himself as a golf’s mad scientist. His yardage booklet is thicker than most of my high school textbooks. He and his caddy try to work out barometric pressure on the course for optimal distance control, and his clubs are all cut to be the same length, same lie and same bounce.

Whether any of this creates a competitive advantage is pretty dubious. Athletes are the preeminent copycats on planet earth and, best I can tell, no one is rushing to make their lob wedge the same length as their 5 iron. As for the trigonometry Bryson does on the course, it’s hard to argue it doesn’t bend the letter of the law in terms of what is acceptable for speed of play.

Whether any of this makes Dechambeau actually smarter than the average bear is even more dubious. Take, for example, Dechambeau during a press conference at the 2019 Northern Trust when asked about his impetus.

Q: What was your impetus?

Bryson DeChambeau: Impetus. Don’t know what that is.

Or better still, the way he seems to hear and then use scientific terms without bothering with what they actually mean. His description of how he interprets terminal velocity is still gut-bustlingly funny.

“Oh my gosh, I guess I should have pulled the flagstick,” DeChambeau jokingly said while rewatching the shot for the first time. “Should have had Tim go up there and pull or tend it for me. That’s alright, it was just a little to fast, the speed. My terminal velocity was too high, and unfortunately couldn’t get that pin to rattle it and slow it down where it could drop half of the width of the ball in the cup.”

But what isn’t up for debate is that Dechambeau has happened upon something over the winter and extended spring vacation that’s breaking the way golf is played. 

While you were spending quarantine watching Scrubs for the eighth time on Netflix, Dechambeau spent his time getting big. Real big. He’s added somewhere in the realm of 40 pounds of muscle (by his own count) since last fall and has morphed into being the longest hitter on tour. His strokes gained driving look like video game numbers, and so do the 400-yard bombs he seems to be hitting once a round now.

Since the restart of the tour, he’s gone T-3, T-8, T-6, 1 in four events (before slipping with an MC at the Memorial and a T30 at the WGC St. Jude). Not too shabby.

Bryson’s Hulk-esque new style can be exhilarating — I’m not so jaded that I can’t see that. Whenever someone nukes a ball 350+, it’s pretty cool. But what it’s mostly served to highlight is the vast and ever-growing schism between how mere mortals play golf and how the pros do.

For the vast majority of golfers, like you, me, and most everyone we all know, golf hasn’t changed all that much in the past decades. Shiny drivers with carbon fiber accents launch the ball farther and higher, but it’s still hard to keep your longer clubs straight. We hit mid-irons into most par 4s and try to take advantage of the few holes where you can go driver-wedge and try and find a number.

But pros and their insane swing speeds are finding that the drivers are now so forgiving and the ball flies so straight that you can and should wail on the tee shot as hard as you possibly can. Dechambeau’s recent success is just a furthering of the trends we saw at Medinah last year, where one of the nastiest courses around got torn to pieces. The players are better than ever, and the technology afforded them is leaving golf courses rich on tradition and rife with challenges for most players completely defenseless from the onslaught of 350-yard bombs.

One of the things that make golf such a great and unique sport is that for at least part of every round you play, you’re playing the same game as the guys you watch on TV on Sunday. You’re never in the batter’s box staring down a 98 mph fastball, nor are you in the pocket trying to fend off a weak-side blitz. But you do get to look at a 23-footer for birdie, just like Tiger does, whether you’re playing on your local muni or at Pebble Beach. 

But those parallels are becoming less and less common as the pros continue to separate themselves. Watching Bryson Dechambeau play now is like watching a different sport. How can you or I relate to watching someone look at a 450-yard hole and say “I’ll knock this greenside and pitch and putt for birdie?” 

Golf is in danger of losing part of what makes it so great, and Bryson Dechambeau finds himself as an avatar for that angst. Regardless of your feelings for him, it’s hard to argue against the fact that what his game represents is a challenge the tour must address. 

Also, he wants to live to 140 years old, so there’s that as well.

Ben Goren

Ben Goren is a contributing writer for Stick and Hack and has been addicted to the game of golf for the past 15 years and isn’t interested in finding a cure. He’s also offering one kidney in exchange for a Cypress Point tee time (serious inquiries only).