Bryson DeChambeau dissects the science of playing at altitude

Bryson DeChambeau is deep in thought about the game of golf, trying his best every day to dissect an art with the help of science. This is an excerpt from his interactions with the press at the WGC Mexico Championship

Bryson DeChambeau leads second round at Porsche European Tour

21 February 2019: The Club de Golf Chapultepec plays at an altitude of 7800 feet above sea level and that brings with it thin air and the need to adjust a golfers clubs and stroke patterns. In this conversation with the press in the lead up to the WGC Mexico Championship, Bryson DeChambeau elaborates on the art and science of playing at high altitude and reflects on a good stretch of results that are driving him up golf’s pecking order.

Q. Picture me as Tiger Woods and you’re at the chalkboard like in the commercials. What all goes into figuring out how to play in altitude for you?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Hmm, not giving everything away. You know, but obviously people make a percentage change off of it and we have an algorithm, pretty much tells us exactly what it’s going to do. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s very close. And I think there’s more to be found out in regards to golf ball temperatures, clubface temperatures, bounce, type of grasses. You know, there’s just a lot more to learn. You think you’ve got a lot of it done and then you go to a golf course like last week and it just throws everything pretty much out the window, so you’ve got to reevaluate and better complete theory, if you want to say that. Last week was a big week for us to — pretty much get a kick in the butt and say, “Hey, you’ve still got a long way to go.”

So this week’s not another — it’s an interesting test of golf. I mean, it’s 9,000 feet effectively, and temperature’s a lot warmer and ball’s different. Ball’s flying differently through the air because of spin, because of compression, because of a bunch of other things. To make it short and sweet, it’s a lot of things that go into it, it’s not just the altitude. So trying to get everything into place is not easy. I think that it won’t be figured out yet. It’s certainly not figured out, nobody’s done it yet, but we’re getting closer and I think about this time next year we’ll have everything flushed out.

Q. Is there anything that shocked you so far, stood out?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Spin rate, spin rate on the golf ball changes dramatically in this type of air. The decay is a lot less because there’s no air resistance. You get a ball that starts off with less spin, first off because of the turf interaction; and second off, it doesn’t stay spinning at all. It just decays really quickly. Oh, no, no. It doesn’t decay as quick. So you’ve got this trajectory that keeps on going out there for a long time and it’s very, very interesting. For example, you can have 2,000 spin, which is perfectly acceptable at sea level conditions, and 2,000 rpm spin with a lower launch won’t go anywhere here.

Q. You’re going out with Tiger Woods and with Abraham Anser. What do you know about Abraham, as you call him? What do you know about him? How much does it matter who you’re paired with in the first two rounds?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: For me who I’m paired with doesn’t really matter much anymore. Used to matter to create a momentum and rhythm. It’s obviously always nice to have people playing well next to you, but I’ve played with Abraham — how do you say it? I played with him at TPC Boston last round, very cordial guy and very nice. We had a good time. Obviously it’s a competitive environment, so we’re going to be going at it. But he’s been a great guy to me and certainly will be the same to him. In regards to Tiger, I mean, it’s Tiger, so it’s an honor to play with him and I’ll be able to feed hopefully off of the crowd a little bit like I did in TPC Boston when I shot 63. We’ll see. Hopefully, it will be a couple of good days.

Q. Where did 9,000 come up with? I’ve been writing 7,800. Have I got it wrong? Do you want to expand on that, Bryson?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: No, that’s part of the deal, bro. That’s part of what we do. It’s more than just altitude. You could have an air pressure system that is like sea level coming through here and effectively change it. That’s what I mean by that.

Q. We’re talking about the weather, just to be clear, right?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Yeah. Even in good conditions but type of turf out here and the elevation, that’s something I haven’t won at yet. It would be nice to be able to figure it out and get things going consistently out here. That’s my biggest nemesis, if something isn’t consistent, I get frustrated, and I get disappointed with why can’t we quantify and make that consistent. Over the past couple days, past week, I’ve been trying to understand why these adverse conditions make the spin rates change dramatically or vice versa, or what is happening in these situations to make me not consistent.

So I think as we progress and time goes on, the more we can understand about the environment and the better adjustments we can make, the more consistent I can be in any golf course.

Q. With multiple wins, a question that gets asked a number of players on their second win, which is Memorial for you, is whether it’s a sense of validation. Do you think that way?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: At that time I did. It was definitely a sense of validation, but now that I look back on it, it’s kind of like it was going to happen at some point, it was just a matter of when. And that’s really because of the process that I set up. I’m not trying to brag or everything, it’s literally every day I’m trying to get better. Every day I want at least one thing to be figured out. Those are kind of my goals now. It’s not I want to shoot this number or win this tournament, it’s literally how can I figure something out because that’s what excites me. When I’m able to figure something out, it gets me going and makes me feel really good, like this is so cool I can use this on the course. That’s what really pushes me in the game of golf is figuring stuff out. I hope that answered your question. It was not short and sweet.

Q. About the pressure, when you win your first tournament or even the Memorial, the second, you’re like in an elite group of players. But then you’re still accessible for the media, for the people. Now you’re in the point of WGC, you’ve got press conferences. Does this affect your concentration or you can deal with it, the growing in the game?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: I can definitely deal with it now. When I came out here, I wasn’t comfortable with it. I didn’t know what to necessarily do, especially when my golf game wasn’t at the level that I thought it should be at, I didn’t really want to do this stuff. But now that I’m at the place I am in the world rankings, I’ve won the tournaments I’ve won, I realize it’s a part of the job. And also my game is in a state where I feel comfortable with it, where I’m not scared to go on the golf course and go I don’t really know where it’s going to go. I’m comfortable with where it’s going to go. And so as it progresses I get more and more comfortable each time. And it’s just experience. I think it’s just being in the situation, being comfortable speaking in front of people. That’s the thing I was not good at in school. One of the great things about physics classes is they worked hard at SMU to speak in front of classrooms, to teach the other kids the material that I was learning. So failing a lot in that has allowed me to realize that even if I do fail up here, it’s still fine. So the pressure aspect of it hasn’t really grown. It’s decreased over time because of the experience, so I feel more comfortable.

Q. You have two teammates that are on the Web Tour that I know you’re very close with. What have you helped them with? Especially Austin being a former roommate, what have you helped them with and what do you see with them that they’ll be able to join you out here?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Well, Harry Higgs, first off, is the most positive person you’ll ever meet. I think that you’ve seen that. And he’s a guy that even when he’s failing, he believes next week he’s going to go win. And I think that is a huge, important factor out here on the PGA TOUR is you never know. One week it could just happen and I think that’s going to suit him well out here. I haven’t really talked to him much, but I know he’ll be successful because of it. And then Austin, understanding his dynamic a little bit where he’s never really had a coach growing up. Super feel player. If anything feels different, he’s going to wig out a little bit, but he’ll figure it out over time. What suits him well is he relies so much on what he’s good at and what he’s done so well for a long period of time. You know, ball-striking is incredible. His putting has been good at times and I think that’s where if he got better with his putting he could be a force out here on Tour. But I think the main point about helping Austin out is the fact that it’s okay to fail. Failing is a part of the journey. It’s a part of the process. And you have to learn from those failures and I think that’s the most important lesson that I’ve helped him out with is take every moment and make it a learning situation. If you can do that, whether you fail or whether you win you’re still going to be trying to learn from it and that’s a progressive thought. It’s not a negative or even a positive thought, it’s just a progressive thought.

Q. Do you think given how much intensity you put into learning and studying, et cetera, are you easy to work with? And do you pay your guys enough money?

BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU: Absolutely, I’ve got incredibly high demands. I think taking the first question and saying I will be totally push-back if somebody gives me information that — potential information that is game changing to me. It’s like, okay, that’s interesting. I don’t know enough about it. I’m always open, always willing to think about things. But, you know, when somebody says something and I’m like, okay, I’ve already gone through that, I don’t need to hear it, I know it doesn’t work because this, this and this. It’s like, “Dude, I’ve got it, it’s not a big deal,” and that’s that. But when it’s somebody that I have — look, I have respect for everyone that’s on the team with me and I think that the more input they give me, yeah, I’m going to say I don’t agree with that or I don’t agree with that because this and this, whatever, but they’re always open to talk to me. I think that’s something that’s very important from somebody that’s trying to learn. Yeah, I can be hard at times, absolutely, because something’s not working, like why is the spin rate off, I can’t figure it out and somebody brings something up and I’m like, “I’ve 6 already thought about it, it’s not right,” and I’ll get a little frustrated. I’ll be like, “I already thought about that, don’t worry about it.” But that’s kind of the process that I go through. Whenever you have somebody under you that’s helping you, they’re going to bring up stuff that you’ve already gone through and understood on your own level that it doesn’t work and be like, no, it doesn’t work, just as a boss in a sense.

And from a payment perspective, if there’s ever an issue, they can always come up to me and talk to me about it because I’ve literally got no issue about it. And if they think they’re worth more, we’ll go over that. I try and be as completely fair as possible and open about that. Yes, I am demanding, I have an expectation level that’s incredibly high but that also means I’ve got a lot of trust in them. Usually when I put people around me, that’s because I trust them at the highest level. And I don’t put very many people around me, so that’s very important to understand. When these guys are around me, it’s because I trust them 100 percent and it’s okay. If they say something I don’t agree with, I’ll tell them, but it’s a back-and-forth discussion and I think that’s why Tim and I work so well, Steve, Ben, Brett, Alex, even John. We all work together to try and get better. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and move on.