By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Bryson DeChambeau smashed his tee shots massive distances but found his share of trouble en route to a two-under-par 70 in the opening round at the Masters on Thursday.
Deciding against using the 48-inch driver he had been tinkering with on practice days, DeChambeau instead stayed with the more standard 45.5-inch shaft that he wielded so brilliantly to win the recent U.S. Open by six strokes.
But Augusta National can be a tough beast to tame, and an early double-bogey at the par-five 13th left the American behind the proverbial eight-ball.
In the end, he was happy with his score, his mood helped by a 365-yard drive down the middle at his final hole that set up birdie and left him five strokes behind leader Paul Casey.
"This golf course, as much as I'm trying to attack it, it can bite back," he said.
"It's an amazing test of golf no matter what way you play it. I tried to take on some risk today. It didn't work out as well as I thought it would have, but at the end of the day I'm proud of myself."
DeChambeau hits his tee shots with such ferocity that it seems every swing risks serious back injury.
Playing companion Jon Rahm, one of the tour's longest hitters, regularly found himself 20 yards or so behind DeChambeau.
"There was a couple of them that were reality checks," said the Spaniard, who is not used to being outhit.
"(On the eighth hole) he seemed to toe it and I hit mine good and he was still way ahead of me.
"But I think today proves that no matter how far you hit it, you still need to make the putts."
DeChambeau, who started his round at the 10th hole, provided a running commentary as he played, his comments clearly audible in the spectator-free silence.
"Oh no," he groaned after hitting a big hook from the 11th tee, a shot so bad he hit a provisional in case it was lost.
Fortune smiled on him, however, as his first shot ended in a half decent position and he saved par.
But Augusta reared up and bit him at the par-five 13th, where he hooked his second shot into the azaleas left of the green, and again hit a provisional that he cut into Rae's Creek.
Staring at a high number if he could not find his first ball, he was mightily relieved when his caddie located it after a couple of minutes.
"Very, very (relieved), because I hit my other one in the water and that was not going to be a fun number," he said.
DeChambeau took a penalty stroke from the bush, and compounded his misery by duffing his chip on his way to an inglorious seven.
He fought back to get under par, but had a hiccup with a bogey at his 16th hole, the par-four seventh, where he hooked his drive into the pines and air-mailed the green with his second shot, leaving himself in an impossible position above the hole and behind a bunker.
"This hole I've got to figure out how to hit the fairway," he muttered to his caddie, a look of dismay on his face when he saw where his ball had stopped.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond)