Bryson DeChambeau arrived in Wisconsin with a lot to say. Rightly so, given he has avoided general media duties since the first week in August. DeChambeau’s comments then, about his refusal to receive a Covid vaccine, triggered the kind of controversy that has seemed never ending.
After that particular rumpus, DeChambeau retreated. Ryder Cup commitments have dragged him back towards the podium. “This is a team event, I’m focused on helping Team USA to a victory and that’s honestly the reason why I’m here,” the Californian said when pressed on his recent silence.
The scale of gallery abuse towards DeChambeau has been such that the PGA Tour took the unprecedented step at the start of this month of specifically warning spectators over the goading of the 28-year-old. DeChambeau’s petty feud with Brooks Koepka has proved manna from heaven for golf fans since their return to tournaments.
“We’re all humans at the end of the day and I think there’s obviously a level of control that any human will ever have,” DeChambeau said. “You can have a lot of armour and you can protect yourself with people around you and all that.
“Sure, there are times where it’s not comfortable, but there’s also times where it fuels me. I think this week is going to be an amazing example of it, and it’s going to be fun to be able to have the crowd behind us and pump them up and show them what I can hopefully do and what we can do as a team, more importantly.
“I’m not going to make this about me again. This is about a team event. I’ve got a brass chest. I’ve taken a lot of heat. But I’m OK with it, and I understand I’m in the place where I’m at, and it’s going to be that way moving forward.”
A further delve into this topic suggested the world No 7 may have made peace with the fact people will love to hate him. “If I make a hole-in-one on every single hole out here, there’s always going to be people saying something,” he said.
“I’m not worried about it. I still love and respect them. I understand they have their opinions and whatnot and I respect those opinions, I see their points of view. But for me, again, this isn’t about me. This is about the team going and winning the Ryder Cup.”
DeChambeau claimed he and Koepka had called a truce. This is, in public relations terms at least, wise; their dispute would be an easy reference point should the US team fail to reclaim the Ryder Cup. “We had some great conversations during Tour Championship week when we had dinner, and then this week, as well,” DeChambeau said. “A lot of this social media stuff has definitely been driven by a lot of external factors, not necessarily us two.
“I sat down and had dinner with him last night and it was fine. I think there may be something fun coming up here moving forward, but won’t speak too much more on that.” A balcony duet, perhaps?
DeChambeau pointed out blisters on his hands, a consequence of his preparations for a long-drive contest which drew cynical glances. “I’ve put full force focus into this event,” he said.
Precisely how DeChambeau, the archetypal individual sportsman, will handle a return to this environment is a key theme of the biennial joust. Bryson-ball, where courses are typically bludgeoned into submission, is not compatible with foursomes especially.
He has unquestionably improved as a player since 2018 but then, on his Ryder Cup debut, he was part of two pairings, trounced 5&4, before Alex Norén inflicted singles defeat. DeChambeau defended his fourball and foursome capabilities.
“I feel like I’m a player that can adapt to anything if I have to,” he said. “I feel like there are certain players on our team that can mesh really, really well with my game, and you guys could probably figure that out. But there are certain players that will be a nice fit to the puzzle, if you like. I could comfortably say that I have no issue playing either format. I think best ball has its benefits to my style of play, and alternate shot with the right person can be pretty deadly.”
So, he was asked, picture the scene: he forms part of a victorious US team, having adapted to the Ryder Cup at the second time of asking. Would he be lauded or, even, accepted? DeChambeau maintained the theme. It is not about him.
“Look, I’m not trying to change anybody’s perception,” the winner of the 2020 US Open insisted. “All I’m trying to do is showcase what I can do for the game of golf. Whether people like it or not, that’s their interpretation of it.
“For me, I’m going to keep providing people with the best entertainment I possibly can, and some people may not like it, some people love it. I’m now doing stuff on TikTok and Instagram and YouTube, just going to do things a little different because I want to show people who I actually am.
“I think it’s cool when they get to see behind the scenes a little bit, see what I do during my daily life. It kind of opens it up to: ‘Whoa, this isn’t just this person because of what people think about me out on the golf course, this is actually a human being.’ It’s not about changing anybody’s perception. I think it’s about getting the crowd behind us and allowing them to, I guess you could say, rile us up to win the Cup.”