Rory McIlroy has expressed sympathy for Bryson DeChambeau as he called for golf fans to be held to the same “high standards” as players.
cIlroy was responding to the latest incident in the unedifying spat between DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka on Sunday, when DeChambeau reacted angrily to a cry of “Great job, Brooksy” at close quarters after losing a play-off for the BMW Championship to Patrick Cantlay.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said on Tuesday that spectators who abuse DeChambeau by shouting Koepka’s name face being ejected from tournaments.
“I certainly feel some sympathy for him because I don’t think that you should be ostracised or criticised 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,” McIlroy said.
“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. 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.”
McIlroy personally experienced the kind of abuse which can be shouted by spectators during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
A fan was ejected after yelling “Suck a d*** Rory” directly at the Northern Irishman, according to a number of on-course reporters who were following the opening match of the second day’s afternoon fourballs.
McIlroy admitted he had been forced to develop a “thicker skin” for Ryder Cups held in America, adding: “Someone once told me a while 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.
“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.”
Asked if he felt fan behaviour had worsened in recent years, the four-time major winner said: “I think some of it crosses the line.
“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.”
Cantlay said he had “some sympathy” for his Ryder Cup team-mate, but pointed to the possible impact of the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Programme (PIP), which will reward the game’s 10 most popular stars with a £28million bonus pool.
“I think, unfortunately, it might be a symptom of a larger problem, which is social media driven and which is potentially Player Impact Programme derived,” Cantlay said.
“I think when you have people that go for attention-seeking manoeuvres, you leave yourself potentially open to having the wrong type of attention, and I think maybe that’s where we’re at.
“And if you’re playing professional golf 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.”