Bryson DeChambeau called PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday to say he’ll be playing at the LIV Golf event in Oregon later this month, and there’s nothing that could change his mind. DeChambeau is a superior character in the game, and he is one of the few golfers who are able to capture the attention of sports enthusiasts in general. At 28, he’s one of the game’s tallest hitters, a major champion, and a compelling enough personality to finish fifth in the inaugural Player Impact, behind Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
In that regard, the news that DeChambeau, along with similarly polarizing character Patrick Reed, would be joining the group of pay-for-players with LIV was a huge blow to the PGA Tour. But there was, however, an accompanying emotion pulsating in PGA Tour circuits on Wednesday: the kind of relief that comes at the end of a turbulent and often toxic relationship.
Interviews with a wide range of sources, including PGA Tour players, staff, agents and casters, produced differing perspectives, but they consistently portrayed DeChambeau and Reed as elite talents whose challenging behavior often overshadowed their playing. Representatives for DeChambeau and Reed did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
“It’s starting to seem like an unwinnable situation,” a source from the tours said of Dechambeau. “It was clear that he didn’t feel obligated to play by anyone’s rules.”
DeChambeau’s often defiant and erratic behavior began shortly after he played on the PGA Tour in 2016. At an AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am early in his career, DeChambeau fired a sermon on a volunteer who failed to spot a stray ball. . The incident was reported up the chain of command, and according to sources familiar with the tour’s operations, it certainly led to discipline. The Tour didn’t talk about the incident, as is their long-running policy, but according to one of the Tour players, a similar situation occurred years later at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
In the summer of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, tour operators and volunteers were instructed to be particularly aware of where people can and can’t go. After bombarding range balls long after sunset, DeChambeau attempted to enter a building without his approval. When he was denied access, he became restless. Shortly thereafter, a tour operator addresses the incident with a stubborn DeChambeau, who is stunned because the volunteer does not recognize him. This was the same week he objected that the photographer had been following him for too long, after which he took a veiled shot on the PGA Tour.
DeChambeau said: “I understand his job is to videotape me, but at the same time, I think we need to start protecting our players here compared to showing a potential vulnerability and damaging someone’s image. I just don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.” . He ended up winning the championship with an emphatic display of his newly acquired strength.
As DeChambeau’s physical transformation and aggressive play continues to elevate his profile, his relationship with the PGA Tour has steadily deteriorated. On his next start after the missile foreclosure, at the memorial, Dechambeau told the rules official that his ruling was “nonsense” and frankly asked for a second opinion. His impressive six-shot win at the US Open in September was met with groans from Winged Foot members who, with the help of a hot microphone, picked up his faint assessment of pitch surfaces sucking), objected to the way he handled volunteers and annoyed as he listed sponsor after sponsor during his interviews with the winner . During these semi-recurring explosions, tour officials will attempt to calm the burgeoning star. With little success.
“He’s a smart guy, he knows he’s a smart guy, but he’s not as smart as he thinks,” says one tourist source. “He doesn’t want advice.”
The advent of the Saudi-backed LIV tour exacerbated any disagreements. DeChambeau, a confidant of Phil Mickelson, came to believe Mickelson’s assertions that the tour was withholding millions of dollars in image rights from its players. In an effort to monetize the viral spotlight in particular – the person raising his arms in the air after nearly driving a green car at a rate of 5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational – DeChambeau has released the NFT for an artist show of the moment.
“He had an elephant in his ear,” a tourist source said.
As rumors continue to circulate about the Saudi-backed league, multiple sources say DeChambeau has been simultaneously reassuring PGA Tour officials in private while publicly criticizing the Tour and espousing the virtues of LIV. One source recalls a particularly awkward encounter when DeChambeau sang the praises of the Saudi-backed project while playing in a supporter with an executive from Rocket Mortgage, a sponsor of the PGA Tour and DeChambeau.
In the summer of 2021, DeChambeau’s feud with Brooks Koepka forced PGA Tour officials – including Monahan – to play the mediator in a protracted feud. Later that summer, Deschamps drew additional criticism when he claimed he wouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine because he “would rather give it to people who need it.” This came at a time when vaccines were readily available throughout the United States. After his comments were criticized by traditional and social media, DeChambeau told tour officials that he would not conduct post-tour “Flash” interviews with print/digital media, a long-standing prerequisite for tour players. Appeals to his representatives were often met with indignation – because they, too, could not change his mind.
Never compliant, DeChambeau has shown a willingness to venture into new arenas. He turned to YouTube and Tiktok to connect with his fans, a practice that inevitably clashed with media regulations on the PGA Tour. A source familiar with the situation says DeChambeau tried to bring a camera crew into the course during a training tour, an apparent violation of those regulations. They are denied access.
Despite his complaints, DeChambeau joined other highly-rated players – including Dustin Johnson, who also later returned to supporting LIV – in making statements regarding their future.
“I want to make it clear that as long as the best players in the world play the PGA Tour, so will I be,” he wrote. For now, all of the world’s top 14 players are still bound on the PGA Tour, but DeChambeau has pulled out. Just six days before his agent, Brett Falkoff – who has been described as “being paid a lot less, no matter what he does” – confirmed that DeChambeau would be moving to LIV, a reporter at Memorial asked DeChambeau why he wasn’t on the list of names to be shown at the gala. LIV opens this week in London.
Looking a little confused, he said, “I think that’s mostly… a lot of it is private. There really aren’t any conversations to have about that, other than the fact that everyone here has their own opinions about me, so obviously there are a lot of conversations As for me, I personally don’t think I am at this time in a place in my career where I can risk things like that.”
However, within the PGA Tour, there was little doubt that DeChambeau would make the leap.
He’s like, ‘Look, if you want to go, go,’ said Justin Thomas at AT&T Byron Nelson. The player he had in mind, according to a tour source, was DeChambeau. They talked about him all the time, and they were guys behind the scenes saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this.’ And like everything, just go after it.”
Now DeChambeau has it. Sure enough, the guaranteed money he’s going to get — more than $100 million according to a good source — looms large in DeChambeau’s decision. But so is his icy relationship with the PGA Tour.
“He’s going to LIV because he wants to be liked, and he doesn’t feel like he got that on the PGA Tour,” said one of the players.
Reed’s exit is similarly unsurprising given his history with the PGA Tour. Team Red’s capture of the tour was so frequent that his wife, Justin, had a direct line of communication with a high-ranking tour operator. The two have been talking a lot about what Justin considers unfair treatment of her husband. The complaints, many of which were broadcast publicly through the usegolfFACTS Twitter account, which is widely believed to be linked to the Reed family, have been consistent. They didn’t like the tee times. His wives did not like them. They wondered why he wasn’t asked to hold a press conference before the tournament. Then they were upset that he was frequently asked to give interviews. The complaints came despite the tour doing its best to protect Reed’s image, even after a number of troubles – including his violation of rules at the 2019 World Champions Challenge and a physical brawl between cans with a fan during the following week’s Presidents Cup.
A tour official described Reid’s inner circle as the most difficult group they’ve had to deal with on the PGA Tour. And that inner circle has continued to change—while DeChambeau has had the same dealership throughout his career, Reed has rotated several managers.
One source says, “He would hire one guy to bridge the gap with the tour, and then the guy would say ‘Hey, the tour isn’t so bad here’ and then fire the guy for not telling him what he wants to hear.”
It’s no surprise, then, that DeChambeau and Reed are leaving the PGA Tour for boatloads of cash and a fresh start with a new tour. Perhaps LIV Golf officials will find common ground with the pair that their PGA Tour counterparts couldn’t.