• August 2, 2021

Exclusive: Why the sport’s most controversial character deserves respect, not boos, at The Open

 Exclusive: Why the sport’s most controversial character deserves respect, not boos, at The Open


Anyone with a hint of empathy would’ve felt sorry for Bryson DeChambeau behind the 18th green on Friday.

Although it’s more likely most of the golfing world will be laughing and calling him an idiot.

DeChambeau clearly had other things on his mind yesterday

AFP

DeChambeau clearly had other things on his mind yesterday

DeChambeau had just been branded ‘an eight-year-old’ by his club manufacturer, mocked by Brooks Koepka, and narrowly avoided a humiliating missed cut at The Open.

All the money and success in the world can’t protect people from vulnerability, and it’s no wonder the 27-year-old was keen to escape the onrushing press.

Having reluctantly obliged to answer questions, there were audible cracks in the American’s voice as he repeatedly apologised for saying his driver ‘sucks’.

DeChambeau said: “I’ll say it again; I’m very, very sorry. I misspoke in a heated moment.

“I am 27, I am human, I make mistakes. Yesterday was one of those. I continue to keep making mistakes unfortunately.”

But here’s the thing: besides Cobra, Bryson doesn’t owe anyone an apology.

Rather than calling out idiocy, we should be praising a unique openness that is usually more humorous than scandalous, which brings people to the game and gets mouths moving.

He doesn’t care about popularity contests, which is just as well, but it’s still got to hurt when nobody seems to likes you.

At the heart of it all is a talented guy trying to solve a mathematical equation and win golf tournaments, albeit doing quite badly here at The Open on three-over par.

Of course, previous accusations of slow play and unsavoury conduct with on-course staff, those are questions he needed to answer – and did.

DeChambeau always faces questions from golf’s critics

Getty

DeChambeau always faces questions from golf’s critics

But the rest of it – same-length clubs, balls in epsom salt, occasionally being too honest – nobody should take offence to that.

Debate it, by all means, but a different approach to golf is no excuse to stop treating someone with respect, particularly a Major champion and eight-time PGA Tour winner.

Put any club in DeChambeau’s hand and he’s still better than almost everyone in the world.

That’s through a combination of natural talent and unimaginable dedication to his craft, both physically and intellectually.

People talk about his game like it’s some kind of cheat code which requires no skill.

They all turned out to watch him this morning

Getty

They all turned out to watch him this morning

There are no rules against weighing 230lbs and swinging at 200mph with a five-degree driver and 46-inch shaft.

Besides, if the American’s ‘controversial’ methods fail, the jeopardy is his alone: he won’t win this week. Why is that not enough?

His troubles are laughed at, called out for misplaced arrogance, and celebrated like moral victories for the game of golf and its courses, particularly here its oldest event.

But when he triumphs, we need to rethink the entire fabric of the sport. Surely it should go both ways?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s golf’s traditionalists and purists who need to change.

DeChambeau delivered packed-out crowds at Royal St George’s at 9.30am on Saturday morning, seven hours before the leaders went out.

DeChambeau was happy to play the pantomime villain

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DeChambeau was happy to play the pantomime villain

They might’ve booed, but they still set their alarms and queued up to watch him smash the ball as far as he could.

They did the same during his practice round on Wednesday, when he ignored the occasional insult and stopped to take pictures with some adoring young fans.

He entertains and gives the very people who criticise him something to talk about every time a big tournament comes around.

It’s just a shame he’s becoming a bit of a martyr for the cause of keeping golf alive in what could soon be a post-Tiger Woods era.

Basically, when all is said and done, we just need to be a little bit kinder to Bryson.

Whether you like it or not, he’s good for the game.





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