We all do stupid stuff. Everyone from 8 to 80 has the inalienable right to screw up. But that’s not why Bryson DeChambeau is so utterly baffling. It’s not what he does but what he says (about what he does) that leaves people so perfectly puzzled about just what buzzes around in that busy brain of his.
Take the latest: DeChambeau’s public comments about his experience contracting COVID-19, which caused him to be withdrawn from the Olympics, and his decision not to be vaccinated are perhaps his most unhinged to date:
"The vaccine doesn't necessarily prevent it from happening," DeChambeau told a few reporters after his nine-hole pro-am round at TPC Southwind on Wednesday. "I'm young enough, I'd rather give it [the vaccine] to people who need it. I don't need it. I'm a healthy, young individual that will continue to work on my health.
"I don't think taking the vaccine away from someone who needs it is a good thing. My dad is a perfect example. He got it [the vaccine] early on because he's a diabetic. People like that need to get it. My mom got it. I don't want to take away that ability."
He has the inalienable right not to be vaccinated for COVID-19. That won’t be debated here, except to say that his individual freedom put others in danger. But that’s not why we’ve come to this point.
Our John Hawkins said earlier this summer in this space that DeChambeau needs to grow up. That won’t be debated here, either. However, after what came out of Bryson’s mouth this week -- and a closer look at his body of verbal work -- his issues might very well run deeper.
Either he has no idea what to say or how to say it or he is without a clue to the extent of how his words sound or what they convey. Or, the whole thing is a calculated effort to manipulate public opinion. You decide.
It’s tiresome to relitigate his aberrant behavior but it’s perfectly reasonable to examine his reactions because they provide a clear window to the person DeChambeau is and what the public sees. The question is: Does he really believe the things he says?
A healthy ego is essential to be successful at professional golf. You need to believe that you’re at least as good -- if not better -- than everyone else in the field at any given tournament.
However, ego taken to extremes breaks through an invisible barrier into such an inflated sense of self-importance that it spikes beyond the norm. DeChambeau’s high regard for what he believes is his superior intelligence has led to aggressive, dominant behavior and a sense of entitlement that he believes he deserves.
Like when he berated a camera operator for capturing video of DeChambeau slamming a club into a bunker last July. “I mean, I understand it’s his job to video me, but at the same point, I think we need to start protecting our players out here compared to showing a potential vulnerability and hurting someone’s image,” he told Golf Channel. “I just don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.”
Not to mention a lack of emotion about what might appear to be disappointment. For instance, he was asked this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis, Tenn., to describe his feelings about missing the Olympics.
“I didn’t feel anything because I wasn’t playing in it,” DeChambeau told Golf Channel. “It didn’t matter. It was sad when I tested positive. And then after that, my brain just shifted into a place where, OK, I wasn’t in the Olympics. It is what it is.”
Which was alarmingly similar to his reaction to his back-nine 44 in the final round of the U.S. Open. “I don't even care,” he said. “People think that -- I've changed a lot, attitude-wise and everything. It's frustrating in the moment when it's happening, but afterwards for me now, I don't really care as much. I've already won it.”
DeChambeau was also called out this week on Twitter by Tour pros Edoardo Molinari and Richard Bland for not shouting "fore!" on wayward shots.
DeChambeau told Golf Channel that he started to feel symptoms of COVID-19 a few days after receiving his positive test -- congestion, fatigue, a few “coughing spurts.” But the most important symptom to him was the loss of 10 pounds and 5 mph of clubhead speed with his driver.
Not his responsibility to protect the people around him and whether he might have exposed anyone else to COVID-19 in the time between of his positive test and when he began exhibiting symptoms.
And his comments about the vaccine and his decision not to get it were simply arrogant and misinformed.
“As time goes on, if it’s mainstream – like, really, really mainstream – and everything is vetted out, yeah,” he said, “I don’t have an issue (getting vaccinated).”
The facts are these: He would not have taken a vaccine away from anyone in the U.S. There are has plenty of doses for everyone who wants it -- and for those who don’t. And you can’t get any more mainstream than 166 million fully vaccinated people in this country.
DeChambeau’s self-image is miles away from the one created by his deeds and his words to justify them. The only prescription to bridge that chasm is a double dose of reality, if not the whole bottle.