With his hard-charging, unconventional approach to the game, DeChambeau comes out on top at Rocket Mortgage Classic but falls short in a key area: professionalism
Since Bryson DeChambeau came out of SMU in 2016 with an NCAA individual title, a U.S. Amateur trophy and an education in physics, his aim has been to render the way everyone else plays championship golf as obsolete.
However, as brilliant as DeChambeau is in understanding the mathematics of his golf swing, his education as a professional golfer barely has begun.
DeChambeau’s stay-at-home experiment while the PGA Tour was shut down is now a qualified success, at least in his eyes, which to him is all that counts. He pounded Detroit Golf Club into submission and turned a Donald Ross classic into a drive-and-pitch, in the process winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic at 23 under par by three over fellow disruptor Matthew Wolff. It was DeChambeau’s sixth career victory on Tour in four years (scores).
“I wanted people to see a different playing style,” he said afterward.
However, DeChambeau’s Sunday validation very well could turn out to be a double-edged sword. The fact that he averaged 350 yards off the tee last week is bound to mobilize even the distance deniers to take action to reduce how far elite players drive the ball. DeChambeau will end up being the movement’s poster child.
We now will begin to ask how DeChambeau’s smashmouth game will fare in a major-championship setup. Will he beat down TPC Harding Park with brute force next month at the PGA Championship? Can he survive a U.S. Open at Winged Foot by hitting it as far as he can off almost every tee? Will the Masters do something to attempt to Bryson-proof Augusta National?
Because if he continues on this scorched-earth path – and improves his mediocre wedge play – DeChambeau is liable to become an unnatural force in the game. And no one is actually sure at the moment whether that would be a good thing.
Until then, he has a great deal to learn about the choices he makes as one of the best players in the world.
At the seventh hole on Saturday in the third round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, DeChambeau hit a poor shot out of a greenside bunker, slammed his wedge into the sand and uttered a profanity when he missed the birdie putt on the par 5. The camera operator trained his lens on DeChambeau for every move.
After finishing the hole and on his way to the eighth tee, DeChambeau had a “testy discussion” with the camera operator for a good 60 seconds, according to Golf Channel, complaining that the cameraman recorded his tantrum, which DeChambeau contended was egregious and out of bounds.
DeChambeau’s reaction to the bad shot is entirely understandable. It happens to the best and worst players. However, his reaction to the cameraman was immature, at best, and petulant, at worst.
“He was literally watching me the whole entire way up after getting out of the bunker, walking up next to the green. And I just was like, ‘Sir, what is the need to watch me that long?’ ” DeChambeau said. “I mean, I understand it’s his job to video me, but at the same point, I think we need to start protecting our players out here compared to showing a potential vulnerability and hurting someone’s image. I just don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.”
Simply put, the camera operator was doing his job, which was to record DeChambeau’s every move while playing a shot and – this should be emphasized – his reaction afterward. Top athletes assume from the very first time they compete in a televised event that everything they do on the field, court or golf course will be recorded on someone’s camera.
Apparently, this is a fact of life for a PGA Tour star who has yet to be explained to DeChambeau. Yes, he’s only 26, but he’s been on Tour long enough that he should be well-versed in the fishbowl nature of playing this game for millions of dollars each week.
Either he’s been told that it’s someone else’s responsibility to protect and enhance his image or he just sort of made it up.
“As much as we’re out here performing, I think it’s necessary that we have our times of privacy as well when things aren’t going our way. I mean, we’re in the spotlight, but if somebody else is in the spotlight they wouldn’t want that, either,” DeChambeau said. “I feel like when you’re videoing someone and you catch Tiger [Woods] at a bad time, you show him accidentally doing something, or someone else, they’re just frustrated because they really care about the game. It could really hurt them if they catch you at a potentially vulnerable time.
“We don’t mean anything by it. We just care a lot about the game. For that to damage our brand like that, that’s not cool in the way we act, because if you actually meet me in person, I’m not too bad of a dude, I don’t think.”
DeChambeau should talk to Woods about privacy, which happens to be the name of his yacht. Woods knows that from the time he leaves his house or hotel room, cameras are on him. It would be fun to know how many times Woods has been fined by the PGA Tour for swearing on golf telecasts. But he wisely accepts it without public complaint.
DeChambeau is either misguided or delusional to think that fame comes without a price. It’s the cost of doing business on Tour. If he can’t accept it or at least become insensitive to it, he should find another way to make a living.
It’s certain that he wouldn’t be followed by cameras while working in a physics lab. No one outside the building would even care.
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