HAVEN, Wis. — For a few minutes, they wondered if he’d come at all.
Bryson DeChambeau was scheduled to speak with reporters at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, part of the first block of American individual interviews. Justin Thomas led off at 8:30. Jordan Spieth followed at 8:45. Ryder Cup Week is a regimented affair. But by 9:05, DeChambeau still hadn’t showed.
For any other golfer, this wouldn’t raise eyebrows. But DeChambeau enters the week under multi-dimensional scrutiny. On the one hand, he’s been at the center of golf’s media ecosystem, thanks to his pseudo-feud with Brooks Koepka and his continued speed chase and his contention in big-time PGA Tour events. On the other hand, DeChambeau hasn’t spoken to the Tour’s pool of reporters since the week of the Open Championship, some two months back. His remarks were the day’s most anticipated.
But there would be no late cancelation; at 9:07, DeChambeau sauntered through the doors of the interview room, took his position at the podium and gazed out at the sea of expectant faces. What followed was hardly a grilling — you won’t mistake this group for the White House press corps — but what he said and what he didn’t gave a window into DeChambeau’s current state of being.
There was, first and foremost, the matter of his appearance at all. Asked what has gone into the decision not to speak to media, DeChambeau was brief and direct. “This is a team event,” he said. ‘I’m focused on helping Team USA to a victory, and that’s honestly the reason why I’m here.'”
In other words, if he didn’t have to be here, he wouldn’t be. DeChambeau has clearly made the calculation that the potential costs of facing the media — like backlash after he expressed frustration over his driver at the Open — outweigh the potential benefits. He might be right.
But DeChambeau did take the opportunity to correct the record on a couple matters. A story on his Long Drive training and his “wrecked hands” drew attention, but DeChambeau wanted it known that the training he’d referred to had actually taken place before the FedEx Cup Playoffs and shouldn’t be considered a Ryder Cup distraction.
“Leading up into this event, I’ve put full-force focus into this event, and I think hitting it far is some of why I’m so successful,” he added, deflecting any potential criticism about his participation in the Long Drive Championship the following week.
He addressed the Koepka in the room, too, saying the two had some “great conversations” during a team dinner at the Tour Championship and added that they saw each other at dinner last night, too, and all was well.
“I think there may be something fun coming up here moving forward, but won’t speak too much more on that,” he finished. DeChambeau likes a tease.
He also made it known that despite speculation on how his game would mesh with others, he thinks he can play either foursomes (alternate shot) or fourball (best ball).
“I’d say first off I feel like I’m a player that can adapt to anything if I have to,” he said. “I could comfortably say that I have no issue playing either format. I think best ball has its benefits to my style of play, and alternate-shot with the right person can be pretty deadly.”
He hinted at a couple holes where his tremendous length could represent a tremendous advantage, like No. 1, which he could turn into a drivable par-4, or No. 5, which is listed at 571 but with the right ball speed, wind direction and overall aggression could turn into driver-wedge.
The lightest moment of the presser came when DeChambeau was asked about last night’s ping-pong loss at the hands of Daniel Berger, which led to a grin. “Nice. Way to go, Daniel, whoever leaked that,” he said. “Yeah, I lost in ping-pong, which kind of stinks, to Daniel. He beat me. There are obviously excuses I could make, but I won’t. I’m pretty sour about it. I’m going to get him back.”
But the most revealing moment came when DeChambeau was asked about his treatment at the hands of fans, which ranges from adoration to full-bore “Brooksy!” heckling. The question was a simple one: Does it hurt? He gave the question a thought, and then he began his answer with what sounded like vulnerability.
“I mean, no matter what, we’re all humans at the end of the day, and I think there’s obviously a level of, I guess you could say, control that any human will ever have, and you can have a lot of armor and you can protect yourself with people around you and all
that,” he said. DeChambeau is obsessed with controlling variables, so it’s always interesting to see how he confronts the uncontrollable, like the actions of complete strangers. It seemed like his answer here was arriving at some version of, “Yes, it hurts, even though I try to block it out.” But public vulnerability does not seem to come naturally, so he redirected.
“Sure, there are times where it’s not comfortable, but there’s also times where it fuels me. I think this week is going to be an amazing example of it, and it’s going to be fun to be able to have the crowd behind us and pump them up and show them what I can hopefully do and what we can do as a team, more importantly.
“I’m not going to make this about me again. This is about a team event. I’ve got a brass chest. I’ve taken a lot of heat. But I’m okay with it, and I understand I’m in the place where I’m at, and it’s going to be that way moving forward.”
DeChambeau clearly thinks with some frequency about how he’s perceived. He has arrived at the conclusion that if he can show off his personality through social media — on Instagram, YouTube or his new TikTok account — he’ll have done what he can.
“It kind of opens it up to, ‘Whoa, this isn’t just this person based off what people think about me out on the golf course, this is actually a human being,” he said.
Still, he acknowledged, winning four or five points for the U.S. side couldn’t hurt his popularity.
In all, the session with DeChambeau ran some 15 minutes. He was measured, arms folded behind his back, clad in a navy RLX jacket and matching USA hat. He seemed to enjoy the questions more as he went along, because he likes to talk. But he seemed to enjoy leaving the room, too.
It’s not clear when he’ll be back.