Bryson DeChambeau: Exhilarating to watch, but let down by a lack of self-awareness

Bryson DeChambeau hit the headlines for his power-hitting, his remarkable win in Detroit, but also some thoughtless comments on day three. David Livingstone asks, does he suffer from a lack of self-awareness?

There’s no doubt Bryson DeChambeau is great for golf and it’s equally certain that, when he’s thinking clearly, he’s grateful for how good the game’s been to him.

His win in Detroit on Sunday was an amazingly quick return on what he called the “long-term investment” in himself by eating and exercising his way to a new body and a more powerful golf swing.

Four weeks into golf’s restart, he’s capped three top-10 finishes with a victory, and his breathtaking performance in the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic turned a less-than-stellar event into box office magic.

The trouble is some of us watching would have been perfectly happy to see him fail following an incident on Saturday in which DeChambeau behaved like a pompous prat before telling us later that he was actually “not too bad of a dude.”

That self-justifying whine prompted an unforgettable paragraph from Eamon Lynch of Golfweek USA Today when he wrote: “It’s one of life’s more reliable axioms that if a man has to tell you he’s a good dude, there’s a fair chance he is actually an insufferable gobshite.”

Not sure how that last word translated in the States but it most likely hit the target, and rightly so.

On Saturday, DeChambeau berated a television cameraman for continuing to focus on a temper tantrum after a bad bunker shot and although his poor behaviour was not shown on television, it was seen by an on-course journalist for the Golf Channel.

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When asked about it later, the player talked about an invasion of privacy and the danger of “damaging our brand.”

He 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.”

The torrent of abuse that followed left DeChambeau with only one way of responding and that was to win emphatically on Sunday. In doing so, he hit the ball so far off the tee and continued trying to drive so many par fours, that he effectively “broke” Shotlink’s statistical summaries.

His comments after winning were interesting in that he didn’t see himself setting an example for his rivals to copy, more of a way of playing that might be adopted by a new generation.

Up until now, the top players have been fascinated by DeChambeau’s transformation but have shown little interest in going down the same route. Rory McIlroy, for one, believes he’s a better golfer when he’s lighter rather than heavier and others, like Rickie Fowler, have questioned when Bryson’s power might become counter-productive.

Their scepticism towards what they regard as a risky venture into the unknown underlines how bold and innovative DeChambeau has been and why he was so emotional on Sunday about his achievement.

It’s a pity he didn’t, in that moment, take the chance to win over an army of new fans by apologising for his behaviour on Saturday, but perhaps the people around Bryson are too frightened to suggest anything that might “damage the brand” or at least hinder their own future as part of that brand.

If one of them could summon up the courage to spend some of the $1.3m DeChambeau won on Sunday to send him on a self-awareness course, they’d be doing more good for their champion’s image than any amount of weight training. Only then would Bryson understand the connection between the golf media and the millions of dollars pouring into his bank account.

Maybe he’d even understand that a television cameraman is not being judgemental by training his lens on a golfer behaving badly but just doing his job by offering a director pictures that tell a story.

He’d perhaps realise that the only person who can damage his image is himself. Having admitted that his behaviour in the bunker on Saturday was “dumb”, he might want to form another of golf’s “dumb and dumber” alliances (see Patrick Reed and caddie) with his equally gaff-prone pal Phil Mickelson.

Phil could, at least, teach Bryson how to apologise because he’s had to do it often enough and, of course, young Bryson is only 26. I’m sure many of us can remember how easy it was at that age to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and regret it later.

The trouble is he doesn’t seem to regret anything so far and the notion of apologising apparently hasn’t occurred to him. And let’s remember that this isn’t a first offence. He’s been quick to take umbrage in the past when commentators have quite reasonably questioned his slow play and his response to criticism is usually petulant.

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