Like him or not, Bryson DeChambeau the talk of Tour Championship

Bryson DeChambeau reacts after sinking his putt on the 16th green during the final round of the BMW Championship Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (Nick Wass/AP)

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Bryson DeChambeau reacts after sinking his putt on the 16th green during the final round of the BMW Championship Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (Nick Wass/AP)

One tip for those attending the Tour Championship this week at East Lake: Do not address Bryson DeChambeau in any way that refers to his nemesis, Brooks Koepka. As DeChambeau saunters by, don’t cry out, “Hey, Brooks!”

Or, “Let’s go Brooksie!”

Or, “I know you’re not Brooks Koepka, but I can tell all my friends I gigged a famous person by blurting out someone else’s name!”

For one thing, it’s not funny anymore, it’s trite. The petty feud between the two is old, and the heckle no longer enjoys even a whiff of creativity.

For another, apparently it could get you tossed from the grounds.

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In any other sport, calling a player by the wrong handle wouldn’t make the top 100 of insults hurled his way. Shout, “Hey Max, Max Muncy!” at Freddie Freeman, and he’d crack a rib laughing. But, addressing the media at East Lake on Tuesday, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said that there’s no place in his sport for such malicious misnaming, and that it violates the Tour’s code of conduct.

“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?” the commissioner began. “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.”

When you have a man who walks the thin red-hazard line of perception between being fascinating and being a twerp, these are the kind of issues you’re dealt. Then add the fact that he possesses an 800-pound golf game, and that makes DeChambeau the headliner at the start of this week’s Tour Championship.

It’s only natural that DeChambeau is drawing so much attention, and it is in some ways even beneficial. Because golf needs that kind of irritation the way an oyster needs a grain of sand to make a pearl.

The whole “Brooksie” thing came to a head Sunday after DeChambeau lost an excruciating six-hole playoff to Patrick Cantlay in Baltimore and as he was leaving, was met by that call that so galls him. DeChambeau reportedly turned on the heckler, tossed an “F” bomb his way and ordered the authorities to remove someone who already was in the process of leaving.

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Bryson DeChambeau reacts after missing a putt on the 17th green, the third playoff hole against Patrick Cantlay during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Credit: Julio Cortez

Bryson DeChambeau reacts after missing a putt on the 17th green, the third playoff hole against Patrick Cantlay during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Credit: Julio Cortez

Combined ShapeCaption
Bryson DeChambeau reacts after missing a putt on the 17th green, the third playoff hole against Patrick Cantlay during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Credit: Julio Cortez

Credit: Julio Cortez

Granted, that probably wasn’t the first time in that particular fan’s life that he deserved a bloodied nose. But a pro athlete of DeChambeau’s stature – a U.S. Open winner, no less – should be able to just walk past such an unimportant encounter.

Like Atlanta’s Stewart Cink, another of the charmed 30-player Tour Championship field, so aptly put it Tuesday, “If we’re expecting to be one of the major sports and play for the kind of money that we’re playing for and have the sponsors and attract the fans, then you got to kind of be ready to perform in front of big league-type fans.”

And some big-league fans are jerks.

There is just so much now that is getting in the way of DeChambeau’s enthralling game. You have to put in a lot of effort to be a polarizing golfer, and he has been up to the task.

DeChambeau came to the game intent upon shaking it to its core with his one-size-fits-all clubs and his promise to overpower the game. Trying to be the smartest guy in the room doesn’t always play well with the room.

When things went sideways, he seemed too quick to blame anyone and anything but himself, as when he recently ripped his driver, drawing a rebuke by the company that pays him to use it. Or when he slammed a club into a bunker in anger and then took after the cameraman who captured the moment for daring to hurt his image.

Then he really stepped in it after missing the Olympics because of COVID-19. He explained he was unvaccinated because he was young and healthy and wanted to save the vaccine for those who really needed it. Sometimes smart people can sound quite foolish, and social media had great sport with that remark.

As to what DeChambeau has to say about any of this, well, you’ll have to supply your own soundtrack. The man third in FedEx Cup points with a very real chance of winning the Tour Championship is in the midst of a personal boycott against the press conference. Oh, that golf media, second only to the White House press corps in asking the uncomfortable question.

Officially, the Tour wraps a warm blanket of understanding around DeChambeau.

Said Commissioner Monahan: “Bryson is a star. He has fascinated golf and sport fans around the world since our return to golf. He’s also a young man that’s growing and evolving, not just on the golf course, but off the golf course. ... I don’t think this is the way things are going to be for a long period of time. ... But he’s working through some things, and he’s going to have my and our support as he continues to do so.”

In the meantime, don’t call him Brooks Koepka. But feel free to call me that anytime. Koepka looks like a movie star, has a golf game kissed by the gods and has cleared nearly $37 million playing a game. Yeah, I’ve been called worse.