A less vocal, ‘Brooksy’-less crowd greets Bryson DeChambeau on Day 1 at East Lake


ATLANTA — The PGA Tour didn’t post any videos of Bryson DeChambeau on Thursday, but the Golf Channel did, and commenters raced to make the same joke.

“Good shot, Brooksy.”

“Nice swing, Brooksy.”

“Let’s go Brooksy.”

This is no surprise; if social media’s takeover of society has made one thing clear, it’s that Keyboard Confidence is absolutely a thing. Brancitis69 or j_chonks—yes, those are real usernames—can fire that off from the comfort of their couch knowing they’ll never have to defend their comments to DeChambeau’s face. Even the fans who have seen DeChambeau’s face in person, at PGA Tour events, have acted with a sense of impunity. They’re on one side of the ropes, and he’s on the other, and if DeChambeau crosses onto the wrong side of the ropes he’ll have a suspension letter in his inbox before he gets back to his rental house.

Brooks Koepka, the other half of this silly beef that has monopolized headlines for months, summed it up nicely on Thursday.

“Let’s be honest,” said the tour’s alpha male, his biceps bulging out of a skin-tight turtleneck. “Most of them wouldn’t say that stuff if they were in the street right next to me … but you put a rope in between us and they think it’s going to protect them.”

There were indeed ropes at the Tour Championship on Thursday, but the only “Brooksys” offered during DeChambeau’s one-under 69 were of the whisper-under-breath-when-he’s-out-of-earshot variety. A crew of young men left of the sixth fairway did lay out a blueprint for those more daring—“I say Brooks, you say See”—but that was about it.

This was in stark contrast to last week, at the BMW Championship in Baltimore, when fans heckled DeChambeau throughout Sunday’s final-round and six-hole playoff loss to Patrick Cantlay.

What explains the difference? First and foremost, the boss laid down the law. During a pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made it clear that yelling “Brooksy” at Bryson DeChambeau would fall under the harassment section of the tour’s fan code of conduct, and harassment can lead to expulsion. It turns out getting kicked out of an event you paid to attend isn’t really worth, as Cantlay put it, “impressing the girl they’re standing next to.”

The Atlanta-area crowd welcomed DeChambeau to the first tee with a warm applause, about equal to the one it gave world No. 1 Jon Rahm. A look around the tee showed a distinct lack of the college-age, 20-somethings most inclined to yell the word “Brooksy” at a golf tournament. Maybe they’re back in school, which starts right around now. Or maybe they’re coming this weekend. This was a Thursday vibe, not a Saturday vibe. No one likes a weekday hangover. Beer sales weren’t setting any records.

This tournament is also held in Atlanta every year; Baltimore hadn’t hosted a PGA Tour event in 60 years. They were starved for an opportunity to see, and yell, at the best players in the world up close. DeChambeau also heard his share the previous week at Liberty National, but New York-area sports fans are a different and much louder beast.

What resulted Thursday was a laidback stroll on a balmy late-summer afternoon. Walking up the first fairway, I asked a DeKalb County police officer if he’d been instructed to kick out anyone who said the B-word. He had not the slightest clue what I was talking about. It never mattered.

If you haven’t been on the Internet for the last four months—never change, by the way—you’d have sworn DeChambeau is the most popular player in the field. There were children wearing his Hogan-style cap everywhere, begging for a ball. His group had triple the amount of fans as any other, including the leaders right behind them. On the third tee, a woman implored him to “stay strong, Bryson!” At seven, fans groaned when he pulled driver only to opt for an iron off the tee.

“I wish I could hit it, guys!” Bryson said drolly to the crowd. Laughs all around. The reverse happened at eight, where water guards the entire left side of the hole. He pulled iron, put it back, and unsheathed the big stick to much applause. This was Bryson at his best; interacting with the fans naturally, then ripping a tight 343-yard draw down the center.

Despite birdieing the last three holes to salvage his round and stay within striking distance of Cantlay, DeChambeau declined to speak with print media for the 13th straight round. He knows print media will ask him about things he doesn’t want to talk about, and that would poke a hole in the bubble of tranquility Monahan helped create for him, at least on this day. Instead, he signed autograph after autograph for children and for grown men. One of these adults, after waiting patiently to get his hat signed, looked DeChambeau in the eye earnestly: “Your work ethic is inspiring, Bryson.”

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