The most effective marketing tool that golf has today is the PGA Tour. Thanks to television and social media, the world’s greatest players generate interest in golf on a daily basis. Bryson DeChambeau needs to wake up, grow up and exhibit a standard of behavior that sets an example for everyone who plays the game, at any level.
DeChambeau is a former U.S. Amateur champion, an NCAA champion, a member of the 2018 Ryder Cup team and a five-time Tour winner with more than $12 million in career earnings. That’s a great playing resume for a 25-year-old, but his antics and temper tantrums on the golf course make DeChambeau look more like a 10-year-old who knows nothing about basic golf etiquette.
Two weeks ago, while playing in the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., DeChambeau hit a poor greenside bunker shot at the par-3 16th hole. As he exited the bunker, he swung in a fit of rage and took out a chunk of turf in the face of a bunker. On Thursday at the WGC Mexico Championship, he was caught on camera ramming his putter into a practice green at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City.
"I want to apologize to my fans, fellow players and the staff at Chapultepec for my actions following the round yesterday," DeChambeau said on Friday. "I am an extremely passionate player, and I am always working on ways to be better. I am certainly not perfect, but I respect the grounds staff and the game of golf and am focused on working harder on this just like I do on my golf game."
Regardless of the apology, he sets a poor standard of behavior for the game. His antics might not be tolerated anywhere outside of the PGA Tour. They certainly wouldn’t be overlooked by the Indiana Junior Tour.
“We have had a Junior Tour policy in place for over 25 years that sets a standard of behavior for the kids who play in our events,” said Mike David, executive director of the Indiana PGA/Indiana Golf Association. “That type of behavior would certainly result in a suspension of some kind.”
Another disconcerting element of DeChambeau’s tantrum in Mexico was magnified by a Twitter video on Saturday featuring Bubba Watson and his caddie, Ted Scott. Watson and Scott were in the locker room, discussing Watson’s problems with the firmness of the greens at Chapultepec. Watson alluded to a need to explore the science of the greens.
Watson and Scott walked around a bank of lockers to solicit some insight from a real “scientist” on how to get a feel for the firmness of the greens. Bryson DeChambeau appeared. He took Watson’s putter and described the angle and arm motion of his attack on the practice green. “You just create a little dink in the ground and see how deep it goes. Obviously, fix it and everything. Seriously, it’s not a big deal, just testing the depth.”
The video offended many in the golf industry. It was the brainstorm of Scott who intended to use it as a way to have some fun with DeChambeau's flaws and poke some fun at the situation.
The blowback was apparent to Scott when he and Watson finished Sunday's round. Subsequently, he issued the following statement, "Not everyone saw it this way. Sorry to those who don't. Never meant to offend. I have worked on a golf course and know how hard it is. Bryson feels terrible. It was my idea to make the video. I believe if you put your mistakes out there for others to see, there's more accountability. Then you are motivated to work on it."
According to the “Conduct Expected of All Players” of Rule 1.2a, which was new in 2019, DeChambeau's actions should be a big deal.
The rule mandates, “Taking good care of the course – for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course.”
The rule continues: “There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct.
“Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1-2b.”
That rule states:
“The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule.
· “The Code may include penalties for breach of its standards, such as a one-stroke penalty or the general penalty.
· “The Committee may also disqualify a player for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Code’s standards.”
An example would be Sergio Garcia, who was disqualified by European Tour officials after he damaged five greens at the Saudi International earlier this month.
Morning Read contacted the PGA Tour, which declined to disclose any disciplinary action involving DeChambeau.
The Tour probably has fined DeChambeau, but we likely will never know.
Tour players should be held to higher standards of behavior. The golf course should be sacred ground to all who play the game. Abusing the golf course is the most grievous display of poor etiquette. It’s time that DeChambeau took a leave of absence from the game, either voluntarily or with the help of the PGA Tour. That would send the proper message to golfers at all levels that respect to the golf course really does matter.
Ted Bishop, who owns and operates The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., and is the author of “Unfriended,” was president of the PGA of America in 2013-14. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tedbishop38pga