Twenty-three years ago, a lanky kid by the name of Tiger Woods took the golf world by storm at Augusta National.
Woods won that week by an absurd 12 shots, announcing his arrival on golf’s biggest stage and setting the tone for more than a decade of Tiger Mania. Taking long, violent lashes, he averaged 323 yards per drive off the tee — by far best in the field — forcing a conversation about what could be done to prevent this kind of dominance again in the future.
Over two decades later, those same conversations are being had once again at Augusta National. But this time, the kid taking the world by storm isn’t so lanky — quite the opposite, really.
This time it’s beefy Bryson DeChambeau inspiring these conversations. After seeing what he did at Winged Foot, everyone in the golf world is wondering what he’ll be able to do at Augusta National. He’s been the talk of the Tour since golf’s restart, and his performance at the U.S. Open only added speed to the hype train.
“What Bryson has done has been absolutely incredible,” Tiger told reporters Tuesday. “We have all been amazed at what he’s been able to do in such a short span of time. It’s never been done before.”
Tiger is half correct in that assessment. Everyone has been amazed by what Bryson has been able to do in such a short period of time. Bryson’s proclamations last fall that he would transform his body, and his game, were met with healthy skepticism. Now, he’s proved just about everyone wrong in that skepticism.
But Tiger saying, “it’s never been done before?” That’s not really true, because Tiger himself did the same thing. He wasn’t mashing the ball because of a ramped-up diet, but his distance advantage over the field was certainly comparable to what Bryson has at his disposal. At the ’97 Masters, Tiger averaged almost 20 yards more off the tee than the mark year-to-date driving distance leader John Daly had establish heading into the event. That’s Bryson-sque.
The difference is, Tiger didn’t have near the technological advantages at his disposal that current players do. His performance helped usher in a new era of golf, where shot-makers of generations past were replaced by the athletes who have populated the game for the past 20 years.
“Back then, there wasn’t the technology to optimize our tee shots and optimize the driver yet,” Tiger said. “I happened to have speed and I happened to hit the ball in the middle of the face and was able to have a little bit of an advantage over the guys. But now you have the ability to optimize one club, and to be able to use that driver as a weapon, to hit it basically as far as you possibly can — we just didn’t have the technology to be able to optimize that.”
But that’s not to take nothing away from what Bryson has been able to do. Everyone has the same tools at their disposal, some are just better to leverage them than others.
“Bryson has put in the time. He’s put in the work,” Tiger said. “What he’s done in the gym has been incredible … It’s never been done before.”
Well, sort of.