The new man of the people, but what can Bryson do for golf?

Mark McGowan

Bryson DeChambeau encouraging fans to touch the trophy at Pinehurst (Chris Keane/USGA)

Mark McGowan

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In the wake of the disappointment that’s followed Rory McIlroy’s heartbreaking defeat at Pinehurst, it’s been easy – for Irish media at least – to overlook Bryson DeChambeau and the incredible turnaround he’s made, not just as a personality, but as a golfer.

Outside of the Irish players, there is no golfer I’ve written about more extensively over the past four or five years.

There was the ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Ape’ column back in 2020, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Bryson’ back in 2021, the ‘We need to talk about Bryson’ in late 2022, and most recently, the ‘One of the great modern entertainers’ which featured in one of our most recent issues of our print magazine.

Looking back through those, I wasn’t always his biggest fan. In fact, the 2022 musings included the following line:

“Now, without knowing the man personally, I don’t particularly like DeChambeau. He appears narcissistic, childish, spoiled, and any number of other unpleasant adjectives, but, despite this (or possibly because of it) he makes for compelling viewing.”

If that sounds harsh, maybe it is, but I’ll defend it as that’s exactly how he appeared to me. But that was then, and this is now. People change, people grow and people mature. Maybe Bryson’s new public persona, that of the affable man of the people, is a ruse, but who cares? There is still plenty of goof there, and I suspect there forever will be, but he’s always been magnetic, he’s always bordered on lunacy, and now he’s added charisma.

In the days where YouTube golf has risen to unimaginable levels and players, the majority of whom are talented but nowhere near talented enough to carve out any kind of decent living in the pro ranks, can become millionaires off the back of the videos they produce, Bryson manages to straddle those two worlds seamlessly.

Which again is a vast departure from what I wrote about him a little over 18 months ago.

“Sure, if you care to go searching on YouTube, Bryson has his own channel where you can watch him playing nine-hole matches against college kids, taking you on a tour of his childhood home, or even showing you how to swing a driver like him, but there’s little natural or organic about that content, and that makes it rather tough viewing in my opinion.”

Perhaps I was being harsh by judging him against other elite online content creators when he was only dipping his toe in the waters of the web, but he’s grown here too and now his content is among the most enjoyable of those that I watch on occasion. And naturally he’s the most talented at the game. It’s hard to adequately appreciate the skill levels of elite pros when they’re competing against other elite pros, but watching them square off against scratch-handicap players with just three clubs to choose from or from tees that are often 60 yards behind is a great way to drive it home.

I wasn’t at Pinehurst last week, but I’ve heard the testimonies of many who were and among the most common forms of encouragement that were shouted at DeChambeau were things like “I love your YouTube channel Bryson,” and “Go Crushers.”

The Crushers, of course, is the name of DeChambeau’s team on LIV, of whom he is captain and the undoubted star attraction. And after his exploits at Pinehurst, he’s undoubtedly the entire LIV Golf league’s star attraction.

The question is, just how big of an attraction can he be? Signing autographs until dark, interacting with the crowd mid-round, fist pumping to the grandstands, high-fiving or knuckle-bumping any and all who reach towards him – maybe it’s because I’m not American, but I still say if you’re a grown adult with no prior relationship to a player and you’re reaching out and looking for a fleeting touch of flesh then there’s something wrong with you – but kids love that. And why shouldn’t they?

I’d not be reaching out for a knuckle bump, but I’d certainly go to watch him play. I’ll wager that the LIV attendance bump off the back of the US Open could see them doubled, perhaps more. The biggest issue with LIV events is that they mean little in the greater context of the game, but his very presence provides additional context.

While Jon Rahm looks like a fish out of water on LIV, Bryson is very much at home as a big fish in a small pond. But it’s bad for the game overall that those 14 LIV events plus the four majors are the only time we get to see him play.

The likes of the Irish Open doesn’t need Bryson in the field to attract a good crowd to Royal County Down this year, but how good would it be to see him there? To have him bomb drives over the blind ridges and have half the crowd help him look for it in the cabbage? The entertainment value of an already extremely entertaining event would be sky high.

His stock is only rising, and since a rising tide lifts all boats, then LIV’s stock as a whole is sure to increase.

And when it comes to growing the game, with his online content and his on-course antics, there may be no one better placed.

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