golf

Dude Perfect Trades Irons for Irreverence at the Masters

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Bryson DeChambeau stood on the tee box, studied the 500ish yards between himself and the green on the 11th hole at the outer reaches of Augusta National, picked his club of choice from his blue golf bag and let loose.

The shot went maybe 40 yards. Even worse, it sailed almost directly left and out of bounds.

"Fore!" DeChambeau said with a laugh, because what else is there to do when you take on Amen Corner with a tennis racket? Or a Frisbee. Or a croquet mallet. Or a pool cue. Or a foam football. Or whatever that mesh thing with a weighted ball in it is called. (It's official name is a foxtail.)

DeChambeau's tour around one of the most famed stretches of one of the most famed courses on the planet last month didn't include a golf club. Sorry, that's against the rules in All Sports Golf, the game invented by Texas-based YouTube stars Dude Perfect.

The quintet -- who started goofing around making trick shot videos over a decade ago -- now boast 57 million YouTube subscribers. Their channel is an irreverent mix of sports and comedy aimed at kids who might only know the Masters as that golf thing with the guys in green jackets their parents watch on warm early spring afternoons.

Or, exactly the kind of audience the powers that be at a place fiercely protective of its ageless traditions knows it needs to meet in the middle if it wants to grow the game, and the tournament's brand in the process.

The 11-minute video the group released last weekend ahead of the 86th Masters looks nothing like what you'll see when the traditional broadcast begins on Thursday. An unorthodox putting stroke with a croquet mallet. A volleyball smashed into Rae's Creek. A Nerf football toss from short of the green on the par-5 13th that settled 3 feet from the hole. Players laying on their stomach for tap-ins with a pool stick.

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All of which was entirely the point when Augusta National OK'd the project, a decision that came as a shock to everyone, DeChambeau included.

"Everybody was (surprised)," the world's 19th-ranked player said. "And I think that's a pretty cool attribute of what Augusta is doing now, and I see it changing in a very cool way for a younger audience, new generation."

Don't get DeChambeau wrong. The rules are still the rules: No cell phones on the property. No shorts for the players. Access in some ways is more limited than ever.

"I still walk on my toes around here," said Collin Morikawa. The 25-year-old two-time major champion had to remind himself not to run during a practice round earlier in the week when he spotted a fan along the first fairway.

Yet the members of one of the world's most exclusive clubs are making an attempt -- outwardly anyway -- to connect with the next wave somewhat on their terms. The Masters -- yes, the Masters -- has a TikTok account.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley quickly grew to embrace the idea of having Dude Perfect turn the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at the club into a content creator's paradise. Well, at least after the 69-year-old Ridley figured out who Dude Perfect was.

Ridley admitted Wednesday he'd never heard of the group but was won over by their reverence for the course and the game. And yes, that 57-million-plus subscriber number caught his attention, too.

The clip has more than 6.2 million views and counting as of Wednesday afternoon. The final round of Hideki Matsuyama's historic Masters victory last spring drew an audience of 9.45 million, most of them likely only familiar with Dude Perfect as those guys who yell a lot when they do things like stand on the back of a four-wheeler and throw a football through a basketball hoop in the stands at the Super Bowl.

"I think it accomplished what we wanted to," Ridley said. "I've heard from a number of my law partners who have teenage children who said, `This is great. My kids want to go out and play golf.' That's sort of the idea."

It has to be if the tournament wants to expand its footprint. Anna Davis, just 16, captured the Women's Amateur last weekend with her ponytails spilling out from under her white bucket hat.

Davis freely admitted she typically doesn't pay much attention to the Masters and said "did they really?" when told Dude Perfect did its thing at a place where the way things are done hasn't changed much through the years.

"They let things slide around here," Davis said. "It's kind of cool that they let stuff like that happen."

Well, within reason. The video ends with DeChambeau and the Dude Perfect crew skipping balls -- golf balls this time -- over the pond at the par-3 16th, an activity once considered taboo that has become a tradition of its own over the last 30 years.

Maybe Dude Perfect turning portions of Augusta into their own personal playground will become A Thing. Maybe not.

"We'll look at more things like that but always through a lens of our culture and respect for the game and respect for the institution in this place," Ridley said.

A place constantly trying to thread the delicate needle between timeliness and timelessness.

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