Bryson DeChambeau drawing fan hostility, but can he help himself?

Every sport needs a Tom Brady, an Alex Rodriguez, a Kevin Garnett—athletes whose accomplishments win the admiration of some but whose acts and attitudes earn the loathing of many.

Hate figures supply one of the main arteries in sports fandom, permitting us to really savor those moments when karma kicks them in the teeth. It’s not a noble sentiment worthy of the Olympic Creed, but disasters inflicted on antagonists bring almost as much joy as the triumphs of heroes.

Social media has fueled the rip current of hatred in sport (and society), as folks once limited to braying from the bleachers have found both a wider platform and a community of the like-minded. The objects of their derision share one trait, of course: all excel in their sport. Bench-warmers don’t vex anyone. But in a pandemic when most other sports are mothballed, it’s increasingly apparent how uneasily golf co-exists with this new reality.

The PGA Tour resolutely refuses to lean into the idea of villains being good for fan engagement.

While its marketing slogan may have changed to “Live Under Par,” the Tour’s governing message remains the old “These Guys Are Good,” without an asterisk and small print cautioning, “But Some Can Be Jerks.” There are players who stray from the ordained conventions. Patrick Reed has embraced the antihero role, though admittedly that’s like a hamster embracing the wheel in its cage. There’s no alternative. Brooks Koepka too has shown an enviable aptitude for Twitter trash talking, which surely discomfits the Tour moreso than his opponents.

But golf’s unease is most readily apparent in a player who unwittingly finds himself becoming a focus of fan hostility, and who can’t seem to help himself.

Bryson DeChambeau lines up a putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 2020 Memorial Tournament on July 17, 2020 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

There is much to admire about Bryson DeChambeau. I’ve seen him be exceedingly respectful to people at tournaments and he exhibits a single-mindedness about his craft that more talented peers are just too lazy to emulate. He works tirelessly and deserves his success. But he is also at times the walking embodiment of an observation by the old Giants designated hitter Chili Davis, who said that growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional.

This was yet another week in which we witnessed awe at DeChambeau’s performance and gasps at his immaturity. The former was inspired by his blistered tee shots on Thursday at the Memorial Tournament. The latter came Friday afternoon during his plaintive exchanges with a rules official on the 15th hole as he bludgeoned and blundered his way to a 10 and an early flight home.

There was no sin in DeChambeau pleading his case to an official in search of relief that even the most casual of

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By: Eamon Lynch
Title: Bryson DeChambeau drawing fan hostility, but can he help himself?
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Published Date: Sun, 19 Jul 2020 14:00:53 +0000

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