How Bryson DeChambeau became golf's great loner and why Rory McIlroy sympathises

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How Bryson DeChambeau became golf's great loner and why Rory McIlroy sympathises - Shutterstock
How Bryson DeChambeau became golf's great loner and why Rory McIlroy sympathises - Shutterstock

Enough is enough, this Bryson DeChambeau pile-on has gone beyond a joke. That was the declaration from Rory McIlroy here, as the Northern Irishman issued a heartfelt vote of sympathy for his PGA Tour colleague. “It’s sad to see,” McIlroy said.

Of course, in the outside world sympathy will be limited for a 27-year-old who has picked up more than £20 million in on-course earnings and who could well pick up another £10.8 million here on Sunday in the dollar-fest that is the FedEx Cup finale.

Furthermore, it is not as if DeChambeau has been despicably abused by the fans, other than in the darker reaches of social media. Because of his long-standing spat with Brooks Koepka, he is called “Brooksie” by the galleries, a seemingly innocuous taunt that reached what we can only hope was its zenith on Sunday when DeChambeau rounded on a heckler with expletives after losing in a six-hole play-off.

With timing that they laughably insist was not connected to that incident, the Tour announced on Tuesday that they after instigating a new “Fans Code of Conduct” that will see miscreants ejected from tournaments if they disrespect the pros. Jay Monahan, the Tour commissioner, confirmed that shouting “Brooksie” at DeChambeau would justify eviction.

In response Golfweek, the US magazine and website, labelled Monahan “the best paid babysitter in the world”. Sir Nick Faldo was just one former player who took to Twitter to ask what DeChambeau might have made of the barbs he received - “Foldo” - or more to the point those that were hurled in the direction of Ryder Cup team-mate Colin Montgomerie.

“I wonder what Mrs Doubtfire thinks of all this?” Faldo tweeted, complete with a laughing emoji.

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States greets fans - Getty Images
Bryson DeChambeau of the United States greets fans - Getty Images

Craig Connelly, Montgomerie’s former caddie, concurred, but without any cartoon giggles. “The amount of s----- I've heard in my time over there and this is what gets you thrown out?” the Scot said. “Buckling to one man! An absolute disgrace!”

McIlroy understands all this, but still has empathy. “I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I don't think you should be ostracized or criticized for being different,” he said.

“I think we have all known from the start that Bryson is different and he is not going to conform to the way people want him to be. He is his own person. He thinks his own thoughts and everyone has a right to do that.

“Yeah, there are certainly things that he has done in the past that have brought some of this stuff on himself. I'm not saying he's completely blameless. But at the same time, I think he has been getting a pretty rough go of it of late and it's actually pretty sad to see.

“Because, deep down, I think he is a nice person and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be. And it just seems like every week something else happens and I would say it's pretty tough to be Bryson DeChambeau right now. He’s trying to learn from his mistakes and I think everyone should give him a chance to try to do that.”

Bryson DeChambeau of the US watches his shot from the rough on the eighth hole land on the green during the third round - Shutterstock
Bryson DeChambeau of the US watches his shot from the rough on the eighth hole land on the green during the third round - Shutterstock

DeChambeau could help himself by agreeing to talk to the written media again. As is his right, he has refused to speak with the press in the two weeks since his comments about not being vaccinated inevitably gained headlines around the globe.

This came on the back of his statements at the Open, where he criticised his equipment - “this driver sucks” - and his own club makers, who pay him millions to play their product and accused him of “acting like an eight-year-old”. As McIlroy said, with DeChambeau there is always something.

The week before Royal St George’s, his long-time caddie, Tim Tucker, walked away to run a bus company, plainly fed up with the maelstrom. DeChambeau has been caught in rows about slow play, about his failure to shout fore, about his own disrespect towards rules officials and camera operatives simply doing their jobs.

And through it all he has presented himself as “different”, as a one-man revolution breaking boundaries in his profession. First it was as the Mad Scientist, playing with clubs all the same length, and putting his golf balls in freezers.

Then it was as The Incredible Bulk, developing four-stone of muscle during lockdown and proceeding to launch drives of 400-yards plus at speeds of 200mph-plus. Unprecedented.

When he stormed last year’s US Open, his fellow pros hailed his vision and work ethic, but perhaps Ian Poulter summed up the reaction best. “He is not my cup of tea, but that was deeply impressive,” he said.

DeChambeau is never going to be adored in the locker room, because he is ripping up their norms and when he becomes embroiled in a feud with an archetypal US jock such as Kopeka there is only going to be one winner.

The loner is cast yet further adrift and now it has reached the point where the Ryder Cup is two weeks away and the discussion is who Steve Stricker can possibly pair with Bryson. Until Phil Mickelson was confirmed as an assistant captain on Wednesday they were even considering giving this out-of-form 51-year-old that role. Another millionaire babysitter.

Naturally, golf is a game that attracts mavericks who are in fact introverts, who plough their own precise furrows towards their dreams. Faldo was a fine representation of this, but he knew that walking the walk was all that mattered in his ambition.

"You keep talking to a minimum, saying as little as you can,” the six-time major winner said. “But it appears Bryson is the opposite. He's come in and created a firestorm. And you do not want to be out on the golf course when you are trying to put out fires.”

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