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Rory McIlroy has ‘some sympathy’ for Bryson DeChambeau

Aug 28, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Bryson DeChambeau reacts on the first green during the third round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 28, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Bryson DeChambeau reacts on the first green during the third round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay both said they feel some sympathy for Bryson DeChambeau following the polarizing star’s most recent run-in with a heckling fan.

Cantlay defeated DeChambeau in a dramatic six-hole playoff at last week’s BMW Championship. As he walked to the clubhouse, DeChambeau reportedly confronted a fan who yelled “Great job, Brooksy!”

It has become a common taunt lobbed by fans toward DeChambeau, referencing his long-running feud with Brooks Koepka. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said this week that fans caught yelling “Brooksy” moving forward are subject to being removed from events.

But it’s the latest in a long line of controversies for the embattled DeChambeau, who has had a number of run-ins with rules officials and is currently not speaking with portions of the media. He also received backlash for criticizing Cobra, the manufacturer of his driver.

“I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I certainly don’t think that you should be ostracized or criticized for being different,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “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.”

DeChambeau is the No. 3 seed this week and will begin the tournament three shots behind Cantlay as he seeks his first FedEx Cup title. But far more of the pre-tournament focus has been on the conduct of fans toward the embattled golfer.

McIlroy acknowledged that DeChambeau is not “completely blameless in this” and “there are certainly things that he has done in the past that have brought some of this stuff on himself.”

“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 he, deep down, I think, is a nice person and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be,” McIlroy added. “And it just seems like every week something else happens and I would say it’s pretty tough to be Bryson DeChambeau right now.”

McIlroy believes DeChambeau is trying to learn from the controversies and encouraged people to give him the opportunity to do so.

Cantlay agreed that DeChambeau is in “a tough situation.” In a detailed response to a question about his feelings on the subject, Cantlay straddled the line between feeling sympathy for his fellow player while acknowledging the role DeChambeau has played in creating the current atmosphere around him.

Cantlay was also blunt in his assessment that DeChambeau is a victim of his own “attention-seeking maneuvers,” which could be enhanced by the $40 million Player Impact Program created by the PGA Tour to reward its most popular players.

“You don’t want to see anybody have a bunch of people be against you or even be heckled,” Cantlay said. “I think anybody that watches sports and sees someone being heckled, they don’t like that inherently because if you imagine yourself as that person, it wouldn’t feel good.

“I think, unfortunately, it might be a symptom of a larger problem, which is social media-driven and which is potentially Player Impact Program-derived. I think when you have people that go for attention-seeking maneuvers, you leave yourself potentially open to having the wrong type of attention, and I think maybe that’s where we’re at it and it may be a symptom of going for too much attention.

“But it can be awesome, too, because if you succeed and you act perfect all the time and you do the perfect things all the time, and then you also go for the right attention-seeking moves, you get like double bonus points because everyone loves you and you’re on the perfect side of it. I think it’s just a very ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ type of deal. And when you leave it to a jury, you don’t know what’s going to happen. So it’s hard to get all 12 people on a jury on your side.

“And if you’re playing professional golf on the stage that you’re playing on and 98 percent of the people are pulling for you and there are 10,000 people on the green, I don’t know, what does that leave, 20 people that don’t like you, even if 98 percent of the people like you? And if those 20 people have had enough to drink or feel emboldened enough to say something because they want to impress the girl they’re standing next to, then, yeah, like, you’re in trouble. Like, people are going to say bad things.

“Golf, unfortunately, doesn’t and probably shouldn’t tolerate that. I think there’s a respect level in golf and there’s intimacy that the fans can get so, so close to you, and you’re also all by yourself, and you don’t have the armor of putting on Yankee pinstripes, and you don’t have the armor of having — knowing that if you’re on the Yankees and people hate you and you’re playing in Boston, you can tolerate it for three hours in right field. But you only tolerate it because you know next week or on Friday you’re going to show up and you’re going to be in Yankee Stadium and no matter what you do, even if you fall on your face, you’re going to have the pinstripe armor on and people are going to love you.

“So golf is different in that respect, that if you only have 2 percent of the people that are very against you because you’re polarizing and because you’re attention-seeking, then you’re kind of dead because those people are going to be loud, and they’re going to want to say something to get under your skin.

“And I think golf shouldn’t let that happen. I think the Masters is a great example of a place that doesn’t let that happen, and it’s the greatest place to watch and play professional golf because of the atmosphere they create. I think if you look at the history of the game and you look at the respect that underlies the entirety of the history of the game, we shouldn’t tolerate it, and we shouldn’t celebrate that. We should celebrate the fan that is respectful and pulls for their side.

“So it’s a tough situation. It’s a tough topic, but that would be my take on it and I’m sure it’s not perfect, but after thinking about it a little bit, it’s the best I can come up with.”

–Field Level Media