Rory McIlroy: Fan treatment of DeChambeau is ‘sad to see’

McIlroy starts eight shots off Patrick Cantlay in Atlanta as he bids for a third FedEx Cup

Rory McIlroy starts eight shots back heading into the Tour Championship. Photograph: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty

Rory McIlroy starts eight shots back heading into the Tour Championship. Photograph: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty

 

Rory McIlroy has offered public support to the much-maligned Bryson DeChambeau, saying it is “sad to see” widespread criticism of the American golfer.

The comments aimed at DeChambeau this week prompted the PGA Tour to warn spectators they will be ejected from venues should they disrespect the Californian. DeChambeau is known to have been wounded by recurring controversy linked to his recent withdrawal from regular appearances before the media.

This year DeChambeau has split from his caddie, been embroiled in a public spat with Brooks Koepka, rebuked for regularly not shouting “fore”, had an outburst at his Cobra driver branded “like an eight-year-old” by the equipment manufacturer, missed the Olympics after contracting coronavirus and was then castigated for not taking a Covid vaccine. Galleries have been quick to focus on the Koepka issue in particular. McIlroy, while careful not to portray DeChambeau as angelic, has now offered rare backing to the 27-year-old.

“I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I certainly don’t think that you should be ostracised or criticised for being different,” McIlroy said. “I think we have all known from the start that Bryson is different and he is not going to conform to the way people want him to be. He is his own person. He thinks his own thoughts and everyone has a right to do that.

“There are certainly things that he has done in the past that have brought some of this stuff on himself. I’m not saying that he’s completely blameless in this. But at the same time I think he has been getting a pretty rough go of it of late and it’s actually pretty sad to see because he, deep down, I think, is a nice person. All he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be. And it just seems like every week something else happens and I would say it’s pretty tough to be Bryson DeChambeau right now.

“I don’t know if anyone else on tour has spoken up for him but I definitely feel for him a little bit. I don’t think he’s completely blameless in all this, but at the same time I think he’s trying to become better and he’s trying to learn from his mistakes and I think everyone should give him a chance to try to do that.”

McIlroy endorsed the Tour’s decision to be more firm on fan behaviour. An immediate test of the updated policy will arrive this weekend in Atlanta, where 30 of the finest players in the world – including DeChambeau – compete at the Tour Championship. A $15 million (€13.6m) first prize is on offer at East Lake.

“I think some of it crosses the line,” McIlroy added. “I think certain other sports’ culture has fed into our game and fed into the fanbase. People will make the argument that: ‘Well, it happens in every other sport.’ But I would say that we’re not any other sport and I think golf should hold itself to a higher standard. The players are certainly held to a higher standard than other sports, so why wouldn’t our fanbase be?

Patrick Cantlay celebrates after his win in the BMW Championship. Photograph: Nick Wass/AP
Patrick Cantlay celebrates after his win in the BMW Championship. Photograph: Nick Wass/AP

“There’s no room in golf for people to abuse someone on the golf course when all they’re trying to do is do their best and win a golf tournament and follow their dreams. There’s no place for that in our game..”

Collin Morikawa also supports the Tour’s stance. “I heard some things last week [at the BMW Championship] – I’m not going to say what – that were just inappropriate and it wasn’t right,” the Open champion said. “Our game is about respect. I get it, the world is changing but that does not mean you can just go out and start saying anything you want.” - Guardian

The Lowdown

Tour Championship

Purse: €50 million (€12.7m to the winner)

Where: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

The course: East Lake Golf Club - 7,346 yards Par 70 - was the home course of the legendary Bobby Jones. The course was originally designed by Tom Bendelow and the full 18 holes opened for play in 1907 before being upgraded by Donald Ross in 1913. The course fell into neglect in the 1960s and into the ‘80s but was effectively resurrected in the early ‘90s by the East Lake Foundation which brought in Rees Jones as designer to restore it back to Ross’s layout. The signature hole is the Par 3 15th which was the first purpose built island green hole in the USA, which requires a carry of over 200 yards to carry the lake.

The field: Let’s just say it is an elite field, limited to the leading 30 players on the FedEx Cup standings. In this case, money really does talk: this is the conclusion of the FedEx Cup and, so, has a pot of $60 million (€50m) in play, with $15 million (€12.7m) to the ultimate champion. Patrick Cantlay heads into the tournament in pole position and with a starting score of 10-under-par before a stroke is hit with the staggered starting leaderboard all the way down to Patrick Reed in 30th position.

Quote-Unquote: “I’m very fortunate that at my young age (27) I make more money than I ever thought I could make. I’ve never done this for the money, but obviously it’s an amazing bonus and even already I can afford a great life for my family and the future of my family” - Jon Rahm being the rock of common sense on being asked what he would do if he won the FedEx Cup jackpot.

Irish in the field: Just the one, Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman starts out in tied-16th place on two-under-par, eight strokes behind leader Patrick Cantlay. McIlroy starts the tournament playing catch-up alongside defending champion Dustin Johnson (tee-time 5.50pm Irish time).

Betting (with starting handicaps): Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay are joint-favourites at 7/2 with Bryson DeChambeau - and the prospect of no heckling from the crowds given the PGA Tour’s get tough stance on the issue - at 5/1 . . . . . although he has a lot of ground to make up, this is a course that McIlroy has traditionally thrived on and he is priced at 22/1 to finish up as tournament (and FedEx Cup) winner for a third time.

On TV: Live on Sky Sports Golf (from 5.30pm).

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