CROMWELL, Conn. — “I knew this was going to come up.’’
Those were the first words out of Jon Rahm’s mouth when he was asked about the new hulked-up, bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday in advance of this week’s Travelers Championship.
DeChambeau and his addition of some 25 pounds of muscle, which has allowed him to increase his ball speed to an unheard-of 200-plus mph, has been all the rage on the PGA Tour since its 2020 COVID-19 restart — more so than Daniel Berger and Webb Simpson, the winners of the past two events.
The new DeChambeau has yet to use his freshly minted muscles to hoist a trophy. He finished tied for third at the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago and tied for eighth at last week’s RBC Heritage.
But the 26-year-old DeChambeau is trending in more ways than one — in locker-room and driving-range conversations among fellow PGA Tour players, on TV broadcasts and on social media.
“Let me start off by saying what he’s done is no fluke,’’ Rahm said. “He’s put in an incredible amount of work for months now. Even though he hasn’t won yet, he’s been up there, and we’ll see. More than anything, I think he deserves more credit than criticism just because he worked really hard to get to where he is and to be precise with that length.’’
That length could — and should — prove to be an advantage on this week’s course, which is more beneficial for the long hitter than the past two tournament venues.
“I think this golf course suits me a little bit better,’’ DeChambeau said. “I definitely feel like I can let it go a lot more. It’s fun attempting to do things that I’ve never done before, and having iron shots into holes that just didn’t even make sense to me a year ago.’’
Will that translate, a year after he missed the cut in three of the four majors, into his first win since 2018 (when he captured four of his five career wins)?
“I’m just going to keep giving myself chances [and] it’s eventually going to happen,’’ DeChambeau said. “Right now, I’m just playing a numbers game trying to beat the casino.’’
Last season, DeChambeau’s average ball speed was 175.4 mph, which ranked 42nd, well behind Cameron Champ’s PGA Tour-leading 190.7 mph average. By comparison, his ball speed was measured at 191 mph on the first hole at Colonial.
“It’s so difficult to increase club-head speed that much,’’ Paul Casey said. “It’s like going faster in a car. To make a car go 180 miles an hour, it needs this much horsepower. To make it go 200 miles an hour, you almost need double the horsepower. It’s crazy how he’s been able to do that. [He’s] going to be a force to be reckoned with if he can harness that and control it.’’
There are questions about DeChambeau’s added weight and aggressive new swing move, which looks rigid and potentially harmful to his joints.
“If I swung that fast right now, I would probably be injured, but clearly I’m not at the same weight, I’m not in the same fighting class that he is right now,’’ Jordan Spieth said.
“We don’t know how his body is going to react to this,’’ Rahm said. “How long will he be able to play with that weight without maybe having injuries? We don’t know how much the human body is supposed to withstand, and those speeds are pretty crazy. Hopefully he stays healthy and keeps playing good golf and evolves the game.’’
Patrick Cantlay wondered aloud: “I’m really curious mostly to see if it inspires other guys to do something similar.’’
Changing the game is not DeChambeau’s goal.
“I still have not reached No. 1 in the world [and] I still have not won a major,’’ he said. “I hope to achieve those goals soon. Why I went on this journey of hitting it far [is] because it did get boring for me for a little while and I said, ‘I need to make it interesting. I need to spice things up for myself.’ I was able to do that in the offseason and then during the quarantine.
“When I stop learning is the day I’ll obviously burn out. Burnout for me is when I don’t have anything else more to learn in the game of golf, and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.’’