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Bryson DeChambeau had a tough day at the office Thursday during the 149th British Open. Time and again, instead of hitting the fairway, the 2020 U.S. Open champion’s tee shots sailed into rough and knee-high fescue.
When it was all said done, DeChambeau signed for a 1-over 71 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, having hit four of 14 fairways. Then he had some things to say about his equipment.
Asked if he thought he could still contend and win the tournament if he straightened out his tee shots, DeChambeau said, “If I can hit it down the middle of the fairway, that’s great, but with the driver right now, the driver sucks. It’s not a good face for me, and we’re still trying to figure out how to make it good on the mis-hits. I’m living on the razor’s edge, like I’ve told people for a long time.”
Even for a golfer who was frustrated by crosswinds and a tricky links course, the comment was surprising.
As DeChambeau uttered those words, Ben Schomin was getting ready for breakfast in Michigan. Schomin is Cobra’s tour operations manager and the man who caddied for DeChambeau two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic after DeChambeau and his longtime caddie, Tim Tucker, parted ways. Schomin is also one of the people who designs and builds DeChambeau’s drivers and irons to very unique specifications.
“Everybody is bending over backwards. We’ve got multiple guys in R&D who are CAD’ing (computer-aided design) this and CAD-ing that, trying to get this and that into the pipeline faster. (Bryson) knows it,” Schomin said. “It’s just really, really painful when he says something that stupid.”
DeChambeau is currently using a Cobra Radspeed driver that is 46 inches long and has 5 degrees of loft. You won’t find a club like that in your local pro shop. They are all made specifically for DeChambeau.
“He has never really been happy, ever. Like, it’s very rare where he’s happy,” Schomin said. “Now he’s in a place where he’s swinging a 5-degree driver with 200 mph of ball speed. Everybody is looking for a magic bullet. Well, the magic bullet becomes harder and harder to find the faster you swing and the lower your loft gets.”
Cobra and other manufacturers have data and detailed information about how driver heads behave under normal conditions because they have captured thousands of shots hit by recreational golfers and Tour players. However, there is almost no information on how drivers react when you get to DeChambeau’s speeds. Only a handful of people on the planet swing as fast as DeChambeau, and Cobra is in the business of selling clubs to the masses. It simply does not have a database to draw upon when creating DeChambeau’s gear. Schomin and Cobra’s R&D team are learning what works and what doesn’t in real time.
“So when he’s talking about the razor’s edge, we’re not going to be able to help that,” Schomin said. At DeChambeau’s speeds, every shortcoming in his swing or mis-hit is exponentially magnified.
In addition, manufacturing prototype driver heads for DeChambeau can take months.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of it, so we’ll place an order for 10 prototype heads and then, literally as soon as that order is placed, usually within a week or two, we might be ordering more of something else,” Schomin said.
The idea is to always have a few driver heads for Bryson that can act as a starting point when he wants to experiment or try something new. So far in 2021, Cobra has made seven prototype driver heads for DeChambeau, a number that might exceed what other star players have made for them in a decade.
“You know, it’s the longest club, with the least amount of loft that is swung the fastest,” Schomin said. “Every ingredient has been added to the difficult salad. Literally, it can’t be any more of a challenge. So it’s this constant work in progress.”
At best, a frustrated DeChambeau saying his driver sucks is unprofessional. At worst, it shows a lack of appreciation for the work and time Schomin and others at Cobra invest in making his gear.
Still, Schomin knows DeChambeau doesn’t mean it exactly the way he said it.
“It’s like an 8-year-old that gets mad at you,” he said. “They might fly off the handle and say, ‘I hate you.’ But then you go. ‘Whoa, no you don’t.’
“We know as adults that they really don’t mean that and I know that if I got him cornered right now and said, ‘What the hell did you say that for,’ he would say that he was mad. He didn’t really mean to say it that harshly. He knows how much everyone bends over backwards for him, but it’s still not cool.”