AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bryson DeChambeau is drawing quite a few comparisons to Tiger Woods these days. When Woods came onto the golf scene in the late 1990s, he hit the ball further than other tour pros and almost singlehandedly forced golf courses, including Augusta National, to add distance—a process known as “Tiger-proofing.”
DeChambeau’s recent bulk-up and his dominant performance in winning the U.S. Open in September have sparked another distance craze in golf. Players are chasing speed as never before, posting launch-monitor readings to social media and even experimenting with 48-inch drivers. The romp at Winged Foot has also re-ignited the debate over whether golf’s governing bodies should act to limit distance in an effort to preserve classic layouts.
The early careers of Woods and DeChambeau are also similar in another way—both transformed their bodies in the public eye. When Woods first won the Masters in 1997, he was rail-thin and weighted somewhere around 140 pounds. By the mid-2000s, Woods’ biceps were bulging out of his shirts and he was gracing the covers of magazines like Men’s Fitness.
DeChambeau’s bulk-up has been more sudden. Way more sudden. The 27-year-old put on 40 pounds of muscle during the tour’s three-month COVID-19 hiatus. The goal, he has said, was to mold a body that could swing the club much faster and hit ball further.
Yet this points to a difference in motivation between the two in terms of their bulk-ups. Specifically, Woods was never searching for more distance.
“You know, I had speed in ’97, I hit it far. As I got bigger and I filled out and tried to get stronger, it was to not hit the ball further,” Woods said during his Tuesday press conference prior to beginning his Masters title defense on Thursday. “It was to be more consistent and to be able to practice longer. Actually, I got a little bit shorter as I got into my mid-20s and late 20s. Probably the most speed I ever had was when I was 20 years old. So 21, I still had a little bit more speed, but as I got a little bit bigger, I didn’t hit it as far. But I got better.”
Woods’ comments seem to corroborate a long-held belief in golf: that lifting weights and adding muscle does not necessarily lead to added distance.
That said, Woods did acknowledge that what DeChambeau is achieving has been both impressive and revolutionary.
“What he’s done in the gym has been incredible,” Woods said. “And what he’s done on the range, and what he’s done with his entire team to be able to optimize [the driver], and transform his game, and the ability to hit the ball as far as he has, and in as short a span as he has, it’s never been done before.”