Bryson DeChambeau has become not just golf's thunderous big hitter but also its most significant lightning rod. On Tuesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan addressed the ongoing situation with DeChambeau that includes fans at various events heckling the eight-time PGA Tour winner with shouts of "Brooksie!" as an ode to his rival and soon-to-be Ryder Cup teammate, Brooks Koepka.
"The barometer that we are all using is the word 'respect,' and to me, when you hear 'Brooksie' yelled or you hear any expression yelled, the question is, is that respectful or disrespectful?" said Monahan on Tuesday. "That has been going on for an extended period of time. To me, at this point, it's disrespectful, and that's kind of behavior that we're not going to tolerate going forward."
This all became a thing early this summer when a video emerged of somebody shouting Brooks Koepka's nickname ("Brooksie") at DeChambeau during a practice round at the PGA Championship. DeChambeau responded, "Whoever is calling me Brooksie needs to get out of here." As you can imagine, it has escalated since.
The next incident came at the Memorial Tournament where DeChambeau allegedly started having fans ejected who yelled the name at him. He gave separate interviews after two different rounds in which he insisted that the hollering did not bother him. At one point, he called it "flattering."
"I'm proud of the way that I've handled the situation. I think that people think that it bothers me, it really doesn't," said DeChambeau. "I mean, that one video clip that came out the other day, it was more of the person saying it in my backswing than anything that bothered me. It wasn't the fact that he said 'Brooksie' or whatever, it was just, he said something at an inappropriate time. If he said peanut butter and jelly at the wrong time, I would have probably said the same thing. They can say whatever they want, I've got no issue."
"Obviously you're going to have people saying things, but again … like I said yesterday, it doesn't rile me up, it doesn't affect me or anything like that," he added the next day. "So it's great banter, it's fun."
The problem is that it clearly does bother DeChambeau. We saw that at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational when he melted down on the back nine with a 41 while enduring jeer after jeer of from folks in attendance. We saw it again last week at the BMW Championship when DeChambeau nearly went after somebody who hollered the name as he was leaving the course after losing a six-hole playoff to Patrick Cantlay.
Folks have reasoned that it's a form of bullying, and given the context and the intimacy of crowds at golf tournaments, there is some truth to this. It's difficult to imagine Roger Goodell, for example, holding a press conference to say that anyone who yells the name "Aaron" at Patrick Mahomes will be ejected from a NFL game. That's actually a hilarious scenario to consider.
Golf is extraordinarily unique in this way, and it's why its commissioner has to address one golfer being called another golfer's name in a press conference he's holding at the end of the season.
In June, DeChambeau acknowledged that his agent had been in contact with the PGA Tour regarding all of this. He didn't disclose much more than that, but after Koepka made a video giving away drinks from his beer sponsor to anyone who was ejected at the Memorial (where DeChambeau said he was flattered), DeChambeau put the onus on Monahan.
"I think that's something that the [PGA] Tour needs to handle," said DeChambeau of any future escalation. "It's something I can't control. I tried to take the high road numerous times and I think that, from my perspective, I'll continue to keep doing so and people are going to do what they want to do. So it is what it is."
Now, it's come to this. Other players have noticed it, too, and with the Ryder Cup coming up in a month, the topic of fan engagement with players in the close quarters of a golf gallery is not going anywhere. Stewart Cink, who made it to the Tour Championship with two wins this season, addressed that on Tuesday.
"This year, I did play a lot of golf with Patrick Reed, and I played quite a few rounds with Bryson. So it's a little different hearing the two personalities of the fan group with those two guys," said Cink. "But I did hear some pretty astonishing things when I played with Patrick, and I love playing with Patrick Reed. He and I just laugh about it when we hear it, and I can't believe that there hasn't been a murder yet in the crowd."
It will be fascinating to see how fans react at East Lake Golf Club during the Tour Championship this weekend. DeChambeau is starting in third place, just three strokes behind Cantlay. He has a real chance to win the event and the $15 million prize that comes with it, potentially even grabbing PGA Tour Player of the Year honors with a third win this season.
On a week where I'm sure he'll want everyone to laud his performance and chant his name, the only conversation anyone in the sport will be having is whether fans were chanting somebody else's.