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Cracked up: Driver snaps, but DeChambeau powers through

Cracked up: Driver snaps, but DeChambeau powers through
PGA Championship Golf - AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

The Kraken cracked.

Bryson DeChambeau’s mission to change the game ran into a minor detour Thursday at the PGA Championship when his driver broke after he teed off on No. 7.

Newly bulked up, and front and center in most conversations about pro golf this year, DeChambeau unleashed the club he calls “The Kraken.” He thought he’d hit a draw. The ball spun weirdly to the right. And as he was using the club to balance himself and snatch the tee out of the ground, the head snapped off.

“It’s material,” he said. “Eventually, it’s going to go.”

Not to worry. A local rule in place this week allowed him to replace the club — a fortunate twist of fate for both the big-hitting DeChambeau and those who have enjoyed watching him overpower pro golf courses so far in 2020.

Never one to miss a chance to tout his sponsors, DeChambeau, who shot 2-under 68 to finish three shots out of the lead, was effusive about the quality of the shafts he uses. The one that broke Thursday had been in play for a year.

“It’s a testament to the product of the company I’m with — how consistent and stable and strong they are,” DeChambeau said.

That he could take an identical shaft, screw it into the head, walk to the tee box on No. 9 and hit one straight and far was, in his mind, nothing less than a miracle of modern technology brought to him by his shaft makers.

“That thing has lasted over a year swinging it over 200-miles-an-hour,” he said. “And to be able to put another shaft right back in and have that thing perform amazing, it just shows amazing that company is.”

It’s true — DeChambeau’s equipment is a big part of his story. All his irons are the same length and same weight — a setup he decided would promote consistency by giving him the best chance to keep his swing on a single plane. His driver is set at 5 degrees, the sort of club you will not see at your local pro shop.

He applied the ethos that earned him the nickname “The Mad Scientist” to his own body in the offseason. Going big on protein shakes, bacon, M&Ms and weight lifting, he has put on 40 pounds between the end of last season and this summer. The results: He leads the PGA Tour in driving distance. He’s won once and finished in the top 10 seven times in calendar year 2020. Even when he fails, he goes down big. He made a 10 at The Memorial on his way to missing the cut.

His success, to say nothing of the show he puts on, has made him a feature player in virtually every golf telecast. It’s can’t-miss viewing full of tiffs with rules officials, a dust-up with a photographer who kept the camera trained on him during a tizzy he threw after a bad bunker shot … and all those massive drives.

“Not putting him down or anything, but I thought it was going to be longer,” said Adam Scott, who has mostly been watching golf on TV this year and returned to find himself in the same group with DeChambeau. “There’s been so much buildup reading the news and watching him play. But fortunately I still hit it long enough not to feel like I’m playing a different course.”

Another area where Scott compares well: major championships. He has one, the 2013 Masters. DeChambeau is still searching.

All his reshaping of the game won’t mean much unless DeChambeau gets a ‘W’ in one of the biggest tournaments. Given his potential, his entertainment value — anyone else snap a driver at the PGA today? — his reputation for being the smartest guy in the room, it’s no wonder his every move is under the microscope.

How many players, after all, got asked what they’d be having for dinner after Day 1?

The answer: steak and potatoes.

“Really looking forward to it,” he said.

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