For those keeping count—admittedly a task less onerous than charting his 44 strokes on the final nine holes at the U.S. Open—Friday marked the sixth consecutive round after which Bryson DeChambeau has declined to speak with waiting media. His silent snit dates to the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational two weeks ago, when DeChambeau breezily told reporters that he didn’t need the COVID-19 vaccine because he’s healthy and wouldn’t take a shot from someone more needy, ignorance that suggested he reads the news with considerably less intensity than he does his yardage book.
Faced with backlash to his vaccine comments, the world No. 6 has opted for silence, unwilling even to enumerate his Friday 65 at the Northern Trust at Liberty National. That’s his prerogative, of course. There’s enough going on in the world that only the most attentive sports fan will miss the regular fix of pseudo-scientific bunkum.
DeChambeau’s wariness of the press—and this being golf media, it’s not exactly Woodward and Bernstein he’s dodging—implies one of two things. Either he believes the media treats him unfairly or he doesn’t trust himself to navigate a simple interview session without stepping on another landmine. Whichever it is, stiff-arming reporters has been the only consistent feature of his tumultuous summer.
DeChambeau had fans ejected from the Memorial Tournament for the apparently grievous offense of calling him “Brooksie,” which served only to inspire copycat hecklers who trail him still. That back-nine implosion at the U.S. Open sent him from the lead to a T-26 finish, yet he tersely insisted it was due to nothing more than “bad luck.” At the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, his caddie quit just before the opening round, causing DeChambeau to refuse media requests for the rest of the week, despite being both the defending champion and sponsored by Rocket Mortgage.
That was just his June.
At the Open Championship, DeChambeau angrily denied that he fails to yell a warning when his tee shots rain down on unaware spectators in the gallery, despite ample evidence that he routinely does just that. After a mediocre opening round at Royal St. George’s, he said his driver “sucks,” a petulant whine that led his equipment sponsor, Cobra Puma, to publicly liken him to an 8-year-old child. He then had to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic team after testing positive for COVID-19.
That was his July. August brought the vaccine babble and yet more pouting with the press, and the month still has 11 days to run. All of this set against a soundtrack of his ongoing social media scrap with Brooks Koepka.
It’s exhausting just to follow DeChambeau’s endless tribulations, so one can only guess at how enervating it must be to live them. Unless, that is, he is so destitute of self-awareness and managerial guidance that he can entirely attribute negative coverage to a biased media without ever indicting his own conduct.
Perhaps DeChambeau sought advice from an experienced hand in such matters last weekend, when he was a guest of former president Donald Trump at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. He did not have his agent, Brett Falkoff, on hand Friday at Liberty National to offer mature counsel. Around the time DeChambeau signed his card, Falkoff was scheduled to tee off in the second round of the Anderson Memorial, an amateur team event held at Winged Foot, where his boss won the U.S. Open last year. Falkoff is partnering with Andrew Giuliani, the sluggard scion of a disgraced former New York City mayor, whose own ersatz campaign for governor of New York has failed to win the support of a single Republican leader in the state. (The pair opened with 73 to tie for 52nd among 58 teams, far off qualifying for the match-play portion of the event, so Falkoff might be present Saturday to guide his charge.)
These FedEx Cup playoffs are an ideal opportunity for DeChambeau to hit a reset button on his season, to state his case for player of the year honors, a conversation he dropped out of when the most significant trophy he held moved to Jon Rahm’s mantelpiece as he failed to notch a single top 25 finish in the majors. At 7th in the FedEx Cup standings, he is effectively guaranteed a real shot at reaping the $15 million bounty at the finale in two weeks.
If he does win at East Lake, to whom will DeChambeau recite his customary lengthy list of sponsors deserving thanks? Will he consent then to meet the press since there might be product that needs pimping? For now, though, he appears to regard members of the media as the wretched refuse of Liberty National’s teeming shore, to borrow Emma Lazarus’ words inscribed beneath that other stiff-armed and mute American icon looming over the golf course this week.
Published at Golfweek.com, August 21, 2021.