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BOB WEST — DeChambeau’s length could threaten golf norms

Don’t look now — or if you do cover your eyes with your hands first — but the once genteel game of golf has a Frankenstein monster on the loose. It’s striking fear into foes, crushing tee shots to scary lengths and obliterating distance norms almost beyond comprehension.

For those who’ve yet to really get back into the PGA Tour since the COVID-19 shutdown, this Frankenstein used to be known as Bryson DeChambeau. A scholarly type who took a more scientific approach to the game than anybody ever has, including the use of irons that were all the same length, he never stopped tinkering with formulas to get better.

Ultimately, he went into a lab/gym during the off-season, reinvented himself into a bulked-up-beast the likes golf has never seen and started launching golf balls into the ozone with surprising accuracy. It all came together at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit where the SMU ex literally bombed his way to a three-stroke victory.

Among the tidbits, he averaged 350.6 yards off the tee on the two holes the PGA measures for driving distance each week, averaged 329.8 on all his drives over a four-day period and topped out with a blast of 377 yards. For added theatre on Sunday, he waited until players cleared the green on a 399-yard par-4 before teeing off.

What’s really scary is that DeChambeau not only led the field in the strokes-gained-off-the-tee stat by 6.672 shots, he also led it in strokes gained putting by 7.831 strokes. It’s a good thing for those trying to keep up that the guy is considered mediocre with his wedge.

DeChambeau has long been a good player, going back to winning the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in 2015 while in college, He won five times in his first four years on tour and has been trending toward greatness since a full-body makeover that added 40 pounds of bulk.

The Rocket Mortgage victory was his seventh straight top 10, dating back to pre-shutdown. During the four tournaments since the restart, he’s been 69-under par and has flirted with winning each time out, while his tee shots seemingly soar higher and farther.

In Tiger Woods’ absence, he’s become golf’s TV magnet. His viewing appeal reminds of the old baseball commercial with the theme “Chicks dig the long ball.”

Some, however, see a bit of an attitude that makes him hard to like. That was on display when he went after a cameraman who lingered on his boorish behavior after a bad bunker shot Saturday.

DeChambeau, meanwhile, is rightfully proud of the success he’s achieved by doing things his way.

“I changed my body, changed my mindset and was able to accomplish a win while playing a completely different style of golf,” he declared after the Rocket Mortgage win.

The question bubbling around DeChambeau now is whether his style translates to tighter courses with longer roughs that so often host major championships. Once upon a time, when a young Tiger destroyed Augusta National with his length, the course underwent massive changes known as “Tiger Proofing.”

Could “Bryson Proofing” be part of golf’s future?

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net. Bob West’s column is sponsored by 5 Under Golf Center.