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Masters 2024: I was there for Bryson DeChambeau's incredible recovery shot—here's how it happened

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J.D. Cuban

AUGUSTA, Ga. — At first glance, Bryson DeChambeau's Masters record doesn't inspire much confidence. His best finish here is a T-21 as an amateur. In six starts since, he's missed two cuts and never finished better than T-29.

The cause of that record can be explained by one thing: big numbers. DeChambeau has averaged three double bogeys (or worse) per tournament, in each of his last five Masters tournaments. He was the first-round leader in one of those Masters. He would have ended in the top 10 in two others if he kept those holes in the bogey range. But he didn't, which is why he's the man with the bad record.

Just as it's true for the rest of us, it's not the bogeys that kill you, it's the blow up holes. That's been Bryson's downfall at this event at Augusta National in the past, and why he was preaching a new mantra coming into this tournament.

"I'm trying to be more patient and knowing what the golf course can give you and what it can take away and respect it." he said. "But when you feel like it's gettable, you see it's right in front of you, it can be super tricky."

That quote, in its entirety, explains DeChambeau's seven-under round of 65. The first part refers to 17 1/2 holes, and the last sentence is about one round-defining recovery. The moment when Bryson almost—and perhaps should've—repeated his same mistakes of the past.

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J.D. Cuban

Bryson's incredible recovery, explained

DeChambeau was fresh off two impressive birdies on the previous three holes: the first on the 12th, where he rolled in a 17-footer for birdie; the second on the 13th, where, from 202 yards in the pine straw, he floated a fade onto the left side of the green and two-putted for birdie.

On the par-5 15th, DeChambeau pulled his driver and took a few deep breaths—his longstanding method of revving up his nervous system for a few extra horsepower—and sent one into the distance. The crowd was impressed, but Bryson lost his balance slightly on his follow through. As he fell back to his trail foot, his gaze lingered on his ball.

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DeChambeau's ordinary draw didn't turn quite as much. The wind moving from left-to-right neutralized the little effort his ball was making in trying to come back.

His ball ended next to a tree, but not close enough that he'd have to worry about a stretched swing. DeChambeau briefly entertained the idea of hitting a layup shot, but in reality, he knew what he wanted to do as soon as he settled into the shot at hand. Perhaps thoughts of the 13th hole birdie from earlier were still swirling.

"That shot wouldn't be any easier," DeChambeau told his caddy as he surveyed the shot.

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The shot DeChambeau was referring to—and the primary case for his defense—wasn't the one he was about to hit, but the one he'd have after that. In his last season on the PGA Tour before joining LIV Golf, which doesn't keep as detailed stats, DeChambeau finished 178th on tour in approach shots between 50 and 125 yards.

DeChambeau's wedge game has never been his strength, and even less so since DeChambeau added more speed to the top of his bag.

"The wedge shot wasn't going to be any easier for me," he reiterated afterwards. "Especially downwind as the greens were getting firm."

Instead, from 220 yards out, DeChambeau wanted to hit a hard, high high fade around the bundle of trees in front of him. He spent a long time diliberating the shot. He didn't need to hit his ball onto the green, he told his caddy, but anything long and left of it would give him a relatively straightforward up-and-down opportunity.

The fade was an essential part here, because in order to get around the trees he needed to aim at the grandstand on the left. The goal was to hit his ball around the trees, over the water, and "get it to the back side and try to chip up."

Seeing the shot DeChambeau did eventually hit, I can safely say he shouldn't have done it. Hitting the hero shot almost never works, for you or for pros.

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"You'll have a look roughly half the time, and those are the times you score," says Scott Fawcett, the co-founder of the DECADE course management system that DeChambeau has used in the past. "It is far more important that you don't over do the aggression or do something silly when you don't."

DeChambeau should've pitched out and taken the slightly uncomfortable wedge shots. Even he admits it.

"It was a little scary of a shot," he said. "I probably shouldn't have done it."

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Nine times out of 10—hell, 99 times out of 100—he would've been right. But on this occasion, he was the best kind of wrong.

Seconds after the ball left the clubface, it touched a tree. DeChambeau began walking after his ball in a bundle of nervous energy, wincing and no doubt fearing the worst. When his ball turned dry, he threw his arms into the air and almost collapsed to the ground. His caddy handed him his putter.

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Two putts later, DeChambeau notched the first of his three consecutive birdies.

"I pushed it a little bit," he said afterwards. "It clipped the tree. I hit four pine needles rather than five, and it worked out perfectly. I got away with one."

He did, indeed. DeChambeau hit on 17 at the blackjack table and turned up a four. The best thing he could do now is gather his winnings and walk away from the table ahead, but the challenge of golf is that it's not fun to walk away from a hot hand.

For DeChambeau at the 2024 Masters, the question remains: Is this an example of the kind of double-bogey disaster mindset waiting to happen, as it has in the past? Or a glimpse into a man whose game has matured, and who this week might see the breaks finally go his way.