[PHOTO: Jim Watson]

The problem with unwritten rules is, well, they’re unwritten. What is obvious for some needs to be spelt out for others, and without fine print things tend to go sideways. All of which is to say, you can’t blame Bryson DeChambeau on this one.

DeChambeau has long had a penchant for inadvertently rubbing the golf cognoscenti the wrong way. Part of this stems from standing out in a sport that genuflects to conventionality. Other times, it’s for matters like comparing himself to George Washington and Albert Einstein before earning a tour card or calling Augusta National a “par 67” after capturing the US Open at Winged Foot. But before Bryson became Bryson, he may have accidentally broken an informal code at Augusta National.

The crime? Playing too much.

When a player qualifies for the Masters, they are invited to visit Augusta National in the months leading up to the tournament for practice rounds. For years, there was no stated limit for how many visits one could make to the venerable property, but given the busy schedules of professional players, many could only find time for one to two visits, at most, leading up to the Masters. But amateurs have a bit more latitude in their schedules, and DeChambeau, as the 2015 US Amateur champion, took full advantage of the opportunity.

How many times DeChambeau actually played prior to the 2016 Masters is somewhat of a legend, with some corners of the golf industry asserting DeChambeau made more than two dozen trips. The actual number is likely much lower – the Augusta Chronicle reported DeChambeau made 12 trips in the eight months before the Masters, not counting tournament week practice rounds – while DeChambeau himself said he played the course “10 times” prior to the tournament.

Bryson DeChambeau on the fifth hole during the second round of the 2016 Masters. [Photo: Scott Halleran]
“Been very, very fortunate to do that and gained a lot of experience,” DeChambeau said that week. “I would say in preparation, I couldn’t tell you an exact number, but those 10 rounds definitely did help, and this week we’ve got a lot of great information, as well. Accumulated hours, let’s see, probably 50 hours, including all the practice rounds and the days that I’ve played.”

The practice clearly helped; at one point in the second round DeChambeau was just one shot off the lead as an amateur before suffering a triple-bogey at the 18th hole. Still, he made the cut and earned low amateur honours at the tournament and turned professional the very next week.

Fast forward a few years later, when US Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale was on the Drop Zone podcast, and revealed that after he earned his Masters invite, he received a packet from Augusta National with information about the tournament. And in the packet was a notification that Parziale would get a maximum of five visits prior to the Masters.

“It used to be unlimited,” Parziale said, “but someone abused it.”

In DeChambeau’s defence, which of us wouldn’t try to play Augusta National as much as possible given the chance? Moreover, there’s long been a rumour that too much play is often a no-no for members themselves. Still, for a man who sees himself as a paradigm-breaker, forcing an unwritten rule to be written is par for the course for Bryson DeChambeau.