For the first time in 33 years, Ian Woosnam is not here for the Masters and while the former champion says he will “feel like a child denied his sweets”, he fears his sport could be left with a bitter-sweet taste by Sunday evening.
“I am honestly worried what Bryson DeChambeau could do to the place,” Woosnam told The Telegraph. “It might be amazing to watch him hitting it these distances, but I don’t think it is good for the game.
"I’m also concerned that swinging it this hard is not good for the modern player. It could be a situation where it's a five-year window and then basically you're burnt out after that.
“If DeChambeau does take Augusta apart then I wouldn’t be surprised if the Masters bring out a tournament ball for their future events. They have the power to do it.”
'Power' has plainly been the buzzword in the build-up to the 84th Masters tournament. DeChambeau’s bludgeoning display in winning the US Open at Winged Foot in September was labelled a revolutionary performance as he bashed down the theory that it was impossible to conquer the supposedly treacherous New York layout through distance.
And with DeChambeau having taken off the ensuing six weeks to develop even more length, with a 48-inch driver and a 403-yard drive on the fly in practice, Woosnam, 62, believes Augusta could be there for the taking.
“People are saying it could be like what Tiger Woods did there in 1997, but it could be even more so, I reckon,” Woosnam said. "Think about it - Bryson could have just a sand-iron to the first, a nine-iron with his second to the [par-five] second, drive the [par-four] third with a three-wood.
“At the 13th, if he launches it over those trees, we could see a pro actually taking a sand-wedge with his second to a par five. The course is 7,400 yards, but it could be like 6,200 yards for him.
“What would Augusta think about that? There have been all the reports about a new tee on the 13th [after the club purchased the land behind], but there’s a whisper that they’ve delayed putting it in because the ball might be changed. And I think it’s going to have to be the ball that golf changes as they won't do anything [to the rest of the equipment] because of the manufacturers.”
Woosnam is in a growing lobby - also including the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player - that believes “bifurcation” is the best solution. The game’s two governing bodies, the R&A and US Golf Association, published a survey earlier this year expressing concern about the distance issue and hinted that the notion of enforcing different rules for the amateur and professional games is on the table.
“Let the manufacturers sell what they like to the amateurs, but the pros use something else,” Woosnam said. “Otherwise, what are we going to do with great golf courses? You can't just keep expanding them because there isn’t that much land and it is not environmentally right, is it? And Winged Foot showed that with the way they can launch these balls out of the rough, that’s not much of a defence either. You've got to build courses for the members, not for the pros, because they only play every now and again on them.
“How can you put someone like DeChambeau on any lay-out you’d call average or even tough? He'd absolutely destroy it. And it’s not going to stop. I have a bad back and I’m longer now than I was in my prime. Crazy.
Couple of things to build off of tomorrow, but happy with this birdie on 1 and being able to harness the wind a bit. @MemorialGolf round 2 starts at 1:06 with @collin_morikawa and @patrick_cantlay. pic.twitter.com/dZGQr6PwCg— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) July 16, 2020
"But back then, with the balata ball there was far less margin for error. It was like kicking one of them light footballs on the beach - if you don't get it right, it goes all over the place.
“With these balls, it seems the harder you hit it, the straighter it goes and that’s why DeChambeau has realised that the game is now all about how fast you can swing it.
Creds: The Telegraph