Bill Shakespeare once asked the question: “What’s in a name?”
If you’re Bryson DeChambeau, the answer is “A lot of frustration.”
DeChambeau has been the PGA Tour’s lightning rod of controversy in recent months thanks to his feud/spat/quarrel with fellow long driver Brooks Koepka. What started with Koepka’s frustration over DeChambeau’s perceived slow play at the Omega Dubai Desert in January 2019, continued with a not-so-subtle shot about BDC’s rapid weight and strength gain and then hit high gear this past May with that exasperated Koepka eyeroll in a video that was never meant to be released.
This thing has escalated into golf’s version of Taylor Swift vs. Kim Kardashian, or Taylor Swift vs. Calvin Harris, or Taylor Swift vs. … well, you get the picture.
At first, many of us were excited to see PGA Players showing emotions like real, live human beings. The (not so) playful Twitter jabs by Koepka and DeChambeau’s good natured responses breathed life into what can be at times a pretty stoic sport at the Professional Level.
And the Tour itself didn’t seem to mind the attention.
But now, on the eve of the Ryder Cup, the Tour finds itself worrying about more than just two teammates who genuinely seem to dislike each other.
As the galleries grow in ever-increasing numbers, fans are getting in on the action, chirping the 2020 U-S Open champ after almost every shot.
After a heartbreaking, six-hole playoff loss in the BMW Championship to Patrick Cantlay (did someone say stoic?), DeChambeau got into a confrontation with a fan who had used Koepka’s name in a pejorative manner whilst referring to our man Bryson … that is to say: The dude yelled “Brooksy!”
Now, one well-lubricated fan yelling “Brooksy” isn’t a big deal.
But when you hear it time and time again, you begin to understand DeChambeau’s frustration. It’s reached a point where Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has stepped in, saying “That has been going on for an extended period of time. To me, at this point, it’s disrespectful, and that’s the kind of behavior we’re not going to tolerate going forward.”
Which brings us to the crux of the matter.
When does playful chirping cross the line into personal attack?
There’s always been heckling in golf to some degree but it’s only in recent years that we’ve heard fans screaming “Mashed Potatoes!” – or worse – immediately after contact.
Some would tell DeChambeau – who, truth be told, has brought a lot of this upon himself with his antics — to simply ignore the taunting like other athletes in other sports.
Others will decry the lack of decorum and respect shown by the sunburned masses surrounding the tee box.
I come down on the side of the former.
Whether we want to admit it or not, golf is different now. After more than a year locked down, fans are back out in droves. They pay their money and are allowed to cheer or boo any way they see fit. Threatening them with expulsion over something that is – at worst – annoying, probably isn’t the best way to attract new fans to the sport.
And let’s face it.
“Brooksy!” isn’t the worst thing that’s ever been yelled on a golf course.