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.
During Saturday’s third round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Bryson DeChambeau — who prides himself on seeing things the rest of us simply cannot grasp — took issue with a camera operator for, well, operating a camera. On the 7th hole, the surly pseudoscientist hit a mediocre greenside bunker shot and angrily threw his club — manufactured by Cobra and available from all good stockists — into the sand. After marking his ball —brought to you by Bridgestone — he had a testy exchange with a camera operator who captured this, before storming to the 8th tee in a pair of stylish Puma shoes.
“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 wailed afterward to Golf Channel’s Will Gray. “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.”
Credit DeChambeau’s optimism in thinking that being shown acting like a jerk would hurt his image rather than merely solidify it.
The world No. 10 — a ranking he has reached thanks in part to his Flight Scope — was sufficiently upset to keep talking after the round without bothering to note the hour on his Rolex timepiece. “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,” he said.
Seldom has the qualifier “too” been so freighted.
It was all so stressful that I’m sure Bryson could have knocked back a couple of cocktails — Grey Goose only, mind you — but the Bentley was probably purring outside the locker room.
Having cameras follow him is something DeChambeau appreciates. Just a few weeks ago, he posted to Instagram an intimate, 15-minute movie in which a camera caressed him as he ambled from his bedroom to breakfast, lingered over his form during workouts, and gazed adoringly at him as he cruised the neighborhood in his convertible. It was a love letter to himself, part Narcissus, part Pee-wee Herman, set in a hall of mirrors.
DeChambeau paid for the cameras in his home, but not those at Detroit Golf Club. But he seems to believe any lens has the same function: to celebrate his brand of data-crunching and protein-shaking, to showcase his prodigious distance but never his astonishingly shallow depth. In short, to help him sling product. And you, dear viewer? Well, you’re just the mark. That’s what his comments Saturday told you.
In the first month since the PGA Tour resumed action, DeChambeau has sucked up more oxygen than a Trumper at Thanksgiving dinner. Is it earned? Who cares. He provides fodder for fans who were starved of sport for three months, giving them license to cheer or jeer. And he is single-handedly hastening the day when untrammeled equipment advances will finally be reined in. For that alone, he deserves gratitude.
But every week is more of the same — showboating and gimmickry, punctuated with the slammed trunk (of a Bentley) as he leaves venues empty-handed. Trophies will likely come soon thanks to his fine play — that too will be good for the game, and also give him something else to enjoy his reflection in. But a touch of class will be harder won.
DeChambeau has the luxury of life in his branded bubble. It’s the privilege of youth, of someone who hasn’t hit the speed-bumps and potholes that complicate careers farther down the road. But someday the answer to his most pressing problem won’t be found on a Trackman monitor, data won’t offer him direction, and he won’t find out who he is by watching his own commercials.
He begins Sunday at the Rocket Mortgage three strokes off the lead. Two shots further back is Chris Kirk, a man who knows what it’s like to go through life pretending to be something you’re not.
In May of 2019, Kirk announced he was taking leave of the Tour to address an alcohol addiction issue. He was gone six months. His results since returning have been mostly crummy, though two weeks back he won on the Korn Ferry circuit. Earlier this week, he spoke about his new perspective.
“I think that I just take all of this a little bit less seriously,” he said. “Obviously, I want to play well and I want to compete and I want to try to win tournaments, but I don’t think it feels as much of life and death as maybe it used to.”
Kirk stands as a reminder that even struggles on the golf course are sometimes still a respite from the real world. He hopes that his strong play will bring attention to his story and help others who are facing similar challenges with addiction. He uses any camera pointed at him for an altogether more commendable purpose. Whatever happens Sunday, Kirk will leave Detroit a winner.
Bryson? Not so much.
Published at Golfweek.com, July 4, 2020.