Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay weigh in on Bryson DeChambeau and whether golf fans have become less respectful

One day after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said that calling Bryson DeChambeau “Brooksie” would be deemed an offense worthy of being booted from a tournament, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay weighed in with very cogent and insightful answers to where they stand on the recent heckling of DeChambeau by some fans.

Asked if golf fans have become less respectful, thus necessitating a stiffening of the rules of fan engagement, McIlroy said, “Yeah, I think some of it crosses the line. I think there’s a certain, I think certain other sports culture has fed into our game and fed into the fan base that’s definitely affected it, and 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. I mean, the players are certainly held to a higher standard than other sports, so why wouldn’t our fan base be.”

As for the upcoming Ryder Cup, McIlroy said he knows he’ll need a thicker skin but he’s developed a philosophy for dealing with fans attempting to incite him by calling him names.

“Someone once told me awhile back, if you don’t take anything personally, you’ll live a very happy life, and I think I try to do that all the time,” he said. “You just try to let it slide off, not take things personally and if you can do that and if you can train yourself to think that way, it certainly makes it easier.”

BMW Championship
BMW Championship

Bryson DeChambeau reacts after missing a putt on the third playoff hole of the the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. (Photo: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports)

Asked if he felt sympathy for DeChambeau and the way he’s been treated, McIlroy said, “I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I certainly, I don’t think that you should be ostracized or criticized for being different, and 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 and 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.

“And I don’t know if anyone else on Tour has spoken up for him, but I definitely, I definitely feel for him a little bit. And I agree, 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.”

When Patrick Cantlay, who defeated DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff on Sunday at the BMW Championship and had a front-row seat to the unruly fan behavior directed at DeChambeau, was asked if he, too, felt sympathetic toward DeChambeau’s recent plight, he gave the most thorough and thoughtful answer on the subject to date. It’s 644 words long, but shared nearly in its entirety because whether you agree with his take or not, it will stimulate further conversation on the matter.

“I think it’s a tough situation. I think, naturally, of course there is some sympathy because you don’t want to see anybody have a bunch of people be against you or even be heckled. I think anybody that watches sports and sees someone being heckled, they don’t like that inherently because if you imagine yourself as that person, it wouldn’t feel good.

“I think, unfortunately, it might be a symptom of a larger problem, which is social media driven and which is potentially Player Impact Program derived. I think when you have people that go for attention-seeking maneuvers, you leave yourself potentially open to having the wrong type of attention, and I think maybe that’s where we’re at and it may be a symptom of going for too much attention…

“I think it’s just a very live by the sword, die by the sword type of deal. And when you leave it to a jury, you don’t know what’s going to happen. So it’s hard to get all 12 people on a jury on your side.

BMW Championship - Final Round
BMW Championship - Final Round

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States looks on over the 15th green as Patrick Cantlay of the United States walks during the final round of the BMW Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club on August 29, 2021 in Owings Mills, Maryland. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

“And if you’re playing professional golf on the stage that you’re playing on and 98 percent of the people are pulling for you and there are 10,000 people on the green, I don’t know, what does that leave, 20 people that don’t like you, even if 98 percent of the people like you? And if those 20 people have had enough to drink or feel emboldened enough to say something because they want to impress the girl they’re standing next to, then, yeah, like, you’re in trouble. Like, people are going to say bad things.

“Golf, unfortunately, doesn’t and probably shouldn’t tolerate that. I think there’s a respect level in golf and there’s intimacy that the fans can get so, so close to you, and you’re also all by yourself, and you don’t have the armor of putting on Yankee pinstripes, and you don’t have the armor of having, knowing that if you’re on the Yankees and people hate you and you’re playing in Boston, you can tolerate it for three hours in right field. But you only tolerate it because you know next week or on Friday you’re going to show up and you’re going to be in Yankee Stadium and no matter what you do, even if you fall on your face, you’re going to have the pinstripe armor on and people are going to love you.

“So, golf is different in that respect, that if you only have 2 percent of the people that are very against you because you’re polarizing and because you’re attention-seeking, then you’re kind of dead because those people are going to be loud, and they’re going to want to say something to get under your skin.

“And I think golf shouldn’t let that happen. I think the Masters is a great example of a place that doesn’t let that happen, and it’s the greatest place to watch and play professional golf because of the atmosphere they create. I think if you look at the history of the game and you look at the respect that underlies the entirety of the history of the game, we shouldn’t tolerate it, and we shouldn’t celebrate that. We should celebrate the fan that is respectful and pulls for their side.

“So, it’s a tough situation. It’s a tough topic, but that would be my take on it and I’m sure it’s not perfect, but after thinking about it a little bit, it’s the best I can come up with.”

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