There are lots of reasons why Bryson decided to bulk up, but one of his primary motivations was performing at Augusta National. The Masters is the tournament Bryson dreams about winning the most, and his never-ending quest for more ball speed has always been done with an eye towards winning a green jacket.
Of course, that template certainly has precedent. Jack Nicklaus won six green jackets with a driver-first strategy. Tiger Woods’ manhandling of the course en route to his 1997 Masters victory led to an attempt to “Tiger-proof” courses, Augusta National chief among them.
We’ve seen other bombers, like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, thrive at Augusta National, too. Bryson wants to be the next name on that list, so he started eating lots of protein and devised a plan for how he plans to specifically tackle golf’s biggest tournament. He divulged some of the details on his recent Twitch stream of his, so lets break down some of the key decisions using Google Earth — plus a few potentials that I threw in there myself (those are denoted clearly).
Oh, and by the way, you’ll notice Augusta National looks very brown in the below pictures, because they were taken when the course was dormant (which you can read more about here) and I couldn’t figure out how to go back in time to an older picture in Google Earth. So here we are.
Carry the fairway bunker on 1?
Bryson didn’t mention anything about trying to carry the fairway bunker on the first hole, as you see in my initial tweet, but it’s a fun possibility that I wanted to include. In truth, there’s probably not much point to doing it. It’s a long carry, as you can see here, and you have to hit over a valley. The reward would be a flip wedge, but with the hole bottlenecking slightly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try it in a practice round, rather than taking the bait in a tournament round.
Carry the fairway bunker on 2
Unlike the fairway bunker on the first hole, the bunker down the right of the second hole — while not on the exact line he’ll plan to take — is one he said he’ll try to carry on his Twitch stream. Most big-hitters aim to run by it, but if Bryson manages to carry it and get some roll down that hill, he could have a ridiculously short club into the green where most players have something in the 200 yard range on the 575 yard par 5.
Drive the 3rd green
Driving the 3rd green is very much in play for Bryson at Augusta National this year. The hole, which has been unchanged since 1996, hovers around 350 yards. The pitch he’ll leave himself for a second shot could potentially be a tricky one, but it’s likely a risk he’ll think is worth taking.
Get close to the 7th green
The seventh hole is frequently one of the toughest on the course. 450 yards to an elevated, well-guarded green; Bryson knows he can’t reach it. His goal is to “get close” with his drive, which would be astonishing by itself, transforming one of the toughest holes on the course into a driver-wedge birdie opportunity.
Carry the fairway bunker on the 8th hole
The 570-yard 8th hole might be the best example of how Bryson’s length could propel him to a green jacket. Whereas most players have to navigate an encroaching bunker on the 8th hole that determines whether they’ll be able to go for the green or not, Bryson’s goal is to carry it 320+ yards over the bunker, which would leave him a mid-to-long iron in.
Aim for the distant tree on 13?
Bryson didn’t mention 13; on his stream he was clear most of his advantages would come on the front nine. But what if Bryson took some kind of aggressive, Bubba Watson-style line on the 13 that put him past the trees down the right side? Maybe he could carry the trees left trees with a straighter drive, or what’s more likely, he’d hit a big draw around the corner. If he could get something out there 340ish, this scoreable par-5 effectively becomes an easy par-4 really quickly.
Of course, the Masters ultimately comes down to execution; hitting the shot you need at the right time. Bryson’s newfound driving distance has opened the door to plenty of possibilities at Augusta. Now it’s all about executing when it matters most.