On Friday, Sept. 24, the 43rd Ryder Cup — the biennial golf match between teams from the USA and Europe — will begin at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. While it’s always a fiercely contested event, this year’s edition is even more enticing with the inclusion of the greatest villain the sport has ever seen.
Yes, in a game where players are considered “colorful” simply for wearing a bright pair of trousers, Californian Bryson DeChambeau’s behavior, on and off the course, has positioned him as the most controversial golf pro in recent memory.
The No. 9 player in the world has ruffled feathers by publicly refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine and getting into skirmishes with fans and on-green cameramen.
“None of us are perfect,” Mike Schy, DeChambeau’s coach, told The Post.
It was announced in July that longtime Bryson caddie Tim Tucker had quit just before DeChambeau was to defend his title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic — reportedly because of verbal abuse from the golfer.
While DeChambeau denied a falling out, Tucker told Golf.com: “We’ve had a very intense relationship where he works a lot of hours. It was a little bit of me not being 100 percent healthy and happy.”
In the final round at the BMW Championship in late August, DeChambeau even berated his playing partner — and soon-to-be Ryder Cup teammate — Patrick Cantlay, for walking when DeChambeau was playing. The pair endured a marathon playoff for the title before Cantlay finally won, leaving a pouty DeChambeau to ignore the media, jump in a car and leave the course, all before his opponent lifted the trophy.
And then there is DeChambeau’s biggest rival, Ryder Cup teammate Brooks Koepka.
What started out as a debate about DeChambeau’s pace of play reached new levels at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, SC, when DeChambeau interrupted a Golf Channel interview with Koepka — leading the latter to call him out for his “bulls–t” in front of the cameras.
After that, fans started heckling DeChambeau during play, yelling out “Brooksie!” (Koepka then offered to send a beer to anyone who got kicked out for doing so.) It got so bad that when someone did it at the BMW Championship last month, Dechambeau snapped, roaring: “You know what? Get the f–k out!”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has now decreed that anyone caught shouting “Brooksie” will be expelled from the course.
“Bryson is just different. Here’s this kid who swings the club weirdly . . . and, because of the way his brain functions, he acts a little differently, too,” Coach Schy said.
“And then, to top it off, he wears a stupid flat cap. Combine all those things and you’re a big target.”
Whatever it is, DeChambeau rubs other pros the wrong way.
English Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter tweeted that DeChambeau is “not my cup of tea” while Poulter compatriot Eddie Pepperell was less diplomatic, labeling him a “single-minded twit.”
PFA Tour pro Brendon Todd, meanwhile, called the 28-year-old DeChambeau a “nut,” in a tweet since deleted.
Former European Ryder Cup player and captain Mark James was more generous, telling The Post: “I think Bryson is a massive talent, but too many of the things he says and does are an attempt to promulgate a public image.”
Schy, meanwhile, told The Post the controversy is as much about the mannered golf world as it is about DeChambeau’s eccentricities and temper.
“Golf is a conservative sport and people don’t really embrace change. I literally have parents that come to me and say, ‘You’re not going to teach my kid the way you teach Bryson, are you?’ ” Schy said. “I mean, why? The guy’s a major winner.”
Dubbed “The Scientist,” DeChambeau takes an obsessive, data-driven approach to golf. Not only are his irons all the same length (unlike every other player’s), but he used to float his golf balls in Epsom salts in an effort to determine their exact center of gravity. When he plays, he likes to know the barometric pressure in the atmosphere and even the sap content of the grass being used on the golf course.
“I have to chase down the most scientifically efficient way to get the golf ball in the hole,” DeChambeau — who majored in physics in college — has said.
He grew up in California’s Central Valley town of Clovis, one of two sons of a sales-rep mom and a dad who was a PGA player-turned-golf-shop manager.
Schy met DeChambeau when the player was just 7 years old and started coaching him five years later. “I hate to say we were perfect for each other,” he said. “My coaching environment is much more like a science project that’s really gone terribly wrong for the most part.”
DeChambeau played golf at Southern Methodist University, winning the NCAA individual championship in 2015. That same year, he joined the PGA Tour as an amateur, turning pro in 2016. He began climbing in the standings, earning a $1.2 million prize in 2018 when he won the Shriners Open.
During the COVID lockdowns of 2020, DeChambeau reinvented himself, putting on 40 pounds — much of it muscle. Now, looking like a superhero, he’s smashing the ball farther than anyone else: averaging around 323 yards for his drives, significantly ahead of the PGA Tour average of 295 yards.
“Like anything he does, he’s a maniac. When you watch him work out, he’s in beast mode,” said Schy. “When he told me he was going to start bulking up, I was all for it, as long as it was structured and supervised.
“But Bryson’s main concern was the cost of going to see his trainer. He said, ‘It’s $400 an hour and I have to fly [to Colorado] to see him.’ Fast forward three years and he now flies there private.”
Yet DeChambeau is also one of the tour’s slowest players, which is the game’s cardinal sin. At the 2019 Northern Trust Open, for example, he was widely criticized for taking more than two minutes to hit a putt that was no more than eight feet.
DeChambeau — who has been romantically linked to medical student Sophia Bertolami — doesn’t care. In fact, he thrives on it.
“Y’all can say whatever you want, but we’re having a f–king awesome time,” he said in an August 2019 Snapchat rant. “So screw all y’all haters, no big deal. I still love you all, even though you hate me.”
Schy said very few people ever see the real DeChambeau.
“When he’s back home and he’s hanging out with the kids at my facility, that’s the real Bryson,” he explains. “You can see he gravitates toward the kids that are a little different, like the super-smart ones who just seem to speak his language. It’s not Bryson the superstar or major winner then. It’s just Bryson the goofball.”
Anxiety is high ahead of the Ryder Cup, as DeChambeau is set to partner with Cantlay — the man who infuriated him over the summer — and be on the team with his chief rival, Koepka.
Chief among US team captain Steve Stricker’s concerns is that DeChambeau’s polarizing presence will affect the Americans’ ability to match the team spirit of the Europeans — which has carried the latter to seven victories in the last nine Ryder Cups.
Golf Digest recently reported that Stricker had taken the six players who had qualified for the team — including Koepka and DeChambeau — out for dinner. It was an effort to ease simmering tensions between the two and foster team spirit. “It was a good dinner.
We enjoyed it, and it was fun,” Koepka later said.
But did he and DeChambeau speak about their spat?
“No,” he replied, before repeating himself, a little ominously. “No.”
Perversely, the two are Schy’s dream pairing for the two-on-two matches. “There aren’t many people more patriotic than Bryson, but it would take some nerve from Steve Stricker to pair Bryson and Brooks Koepka. Personally, though, I think it would be awesome,” Schy said.
Mike Harris, editor of Golf Monthly magazine, argues that it’s all good for the game.
“DeChambeau has undoubtedly put himself in the firing line with fans, media and other players . . . but it’s my view that the negative reaction is actually out of proportion to ‘the crime’ of being different and having an opinion,” Harris said. “Golf badly needs characters who innovate and move the needle. Bryson DeChambeau definitely does that.”