The sneaky reason Bryson DeChambeau has been so successful at the World Long Drive Championship
What hasn’t been consistent is the wind.
For the most part, the variable breezes have benefited DeChambeau.
“A lot of guys might modify their equipment according to the conditions, but they’re not necessarily going to change their shot shape,” says Bobby Bradley, a long-drive competitor who has doubled as a live-stream commentator for this year’s event. “Bryson’s a different animal. He’s a sniper with his driver. A total assassin. He can pretty much move the ball however he wants.”
Take Tuesday evening, the opening night of the competition in Mesquite, Nev., when the wind was left to right and helping. Rather than fight against it with his go-to draw, DeChambeau started hitting straight balls and baby fades, the better to ride the breezes.
On Wednesday, when the wind switched, blowing right to left and against him, DeChambeau readjusted, going back to a tight draw, the shape most favorable to the conditions.
Thursday evening’s session brought another curveball. This time, the fan was blowing straight into the players’ faces. Given that his ball-flight is relatively low by long-drive standards, coupled with his ability to control spin, DeChambeau once more enjoyed an edge.
What he and the other competitors have yet to deal with is a wind straight at their backs. DeChambeau is hoping it stays that way.
“The second these guys hit downwind, it’s over for me,” he said on Wednesday evening, after advancing to the Round of 32.
He wasn’t being defeatist. He was just acknowledging basic physics.
Over the course of the competition, DeChambeau has produced ball speeds in the 210-215 mile-per-hour range. That’s plenty fast, but still upward of 15 miles-per-hour slower than the speeds generated by the likes of Justin James, Martin Borgmeier and Kyle Berkshire, all of whom DeChambeau will face in the finals.
Hitting into the wind, DeChambeau might stand a chance against those guys. Because they tend to hit it higher and with more spin, their shots have a greater chance of getting gobbled up or sent off course by the breezes. DeChambeau’s more penetrating flight would give him an edge.
With the wind behind them, though, the longest of the long would be near-impossible for DeChambeau to beat.
“Into the wind, it’s more of a ball-flight contest,” says Jason Zuback, a five-time World Long Drive champion who also won a world title in the senior division. “But downwind, it’s more of a horsepower contest. Those guys who launch it high and spin it more are rewarded with the wind behind them.”
By that measure, DeChambeau should be feeling good about the current forecast for this evening in Mesquite, which calls for light winds, moving right to left and into the players’ faces.
But based on the past few evenings, that could always change.