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Should golf fans be told what not to say? Is the Brooks-Bryson feud bad for golf? Our editors debate

August 31, 2021

Bryson DeChambeau tees off on the 16th hole during the final round of the BMW Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club.

Ben Jared

Commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday at the Tour Championship addressed one of the hot-button issues on the PGA Tour: the apparent increase in fan harassment of players such as Bryson DeChambeau. At recent tournaments, DeChambeau—who has been in a very public feud with fellow major winner Brooks Koepka—has heard constant yells of “Brooksy!” from the gallery and loud cheers from some when his shots have found hazards. Monahan said on Tuesday, “To me, when you hear ‘Brooksy’ yelled or you hear any expression yelled, the question is, is that respectful or disrespectful? That has been going on for an extended period of time. To me, at this point, it's disrespectful, and that's the kind of behavior that we're not going to tolerate going forward.” The commissioner said spectators could be ejected for such behavior under the tour’s new fans’ code-of-conduct policy.

In the wake of the tour’s announcement, our writers and editors weigh in.

Will Monahan’s warning today about ejecting fans have an immediate effect on how people behave?

Think it’s a stretch to assume the type of people yelling nonsense are the people who will take directives from a commissioner’s Tuesday press conference. —Joel Beall

What it will do is tone things down a bit. Guys who were just going to gratuitously say it on a lark will probably think twice. It won’t silence the real rowdies, but you’ve got to start somewhere. —Ryan Herrington

Think of the grown men who would yell “BROOKSY” at a PGA Tour event—they’re not the type (or sober enough) to politely adhere to a request from a guy in a suit. I suspect a good portion will want to say it even more now. To truly police this you’d need people everywhere, listening all the time, and I don’t think the tour wants the optics of kicking out scores of people. Until Brooks speaks, nothing happens. —Daniel Rapaport

The commissioner makes an earnest statement about wanting to solve this, and then the players immediately take to social media to have fun with it. So how are fans supposed to take it seriously? —Tod Leonard

Does the tour have a right to monitor what fans say or yell?

It does when fans yelling starts to interfere with the actual competition. More than a few times on Sunday at Caves Valley, Bryson had to back away over a shot, as did other players. Paying for a ticket doesn’t entitle a fan to become part of the show. —RH

Of course it do. It’s their product, so they make the rules. I understand the comparisons to other sports, but golf isn’t other sports. It’s one of the reasons we love it so much. Monahan said he wants a safe, welcoming environment, and he has every right to make that a reality. —DR

The tour has to police this now before it gets any further out of hand. But it needs to look in the mirror, too. These massive hospitality areas seem like they're more for drinking than watching golf. When the lines are longer for beer than for the bathrooms, you've probably got an issue. —TL

Professional leagues toss unruly fans all the time. Same thing for comedy clubs, theaters and other entertainment venues. Purchasing a ticket does not offer immunity for acting like a jackass. —JB

Do you think the current behavior is damaging the game or its reputation?

Maybe among the super hardcore fans, but for the Average Joe who only kinda follows golf, it’s an easy-to-follow storyline that brings something spicy to a sometimes-bland product. —DR

No. For those who haven’t been paying attention to the news, it’s been a busy year. Golf has a list of issues threatening its present and future. This, while uncomfortable, ain’t one of them. —JB

Anybody who's been to the Masters knows what golf should look and sound like, though the Running Police might be a bit over the top. Tremendous, meaningful cheering, and in the very, very rare occasion some moron yells something stupid, he gets stared down like there's snot running out his nose. Are we too far gone for that anywhere outside the Augusta National bubble? Maybe we were a long time ago. —TL

It’s starting to, for sure. Each week, it’s almost as if the gallery is trying to top the previous week’s outrageousness. At first it seemed funny, but now it has become annoying and distracting and is close to becoming out of control. Maybe golf needed a rivalry, but it didn’t need a three-ring circus. —RH

In January 2020, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau joked around at the launch of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

RK

How much of this is the responsibility of the players to work it out between themselves?

This is bigger than Brooks and Bryson. It’s clear the past 18 months has done a number on our society, to the point that people (a small contingent, perhaps, but a contingent nonetheless) have forgotten, maybe abandoned, the notion of what it means to be civil. It’s a regression fueled by a visceral sensation of pent-up anger and rage waiting to be directed at anything and anyone. That is going to manifest itself in ugly ways and has at other sporting events; Bryson just so happens to be its target when it comes to golf tournaments. —JB

Yes, but it’s also on other players to speak to both of them and say, “Enough is enough.” Peer pressure might be something that could have quelled this earlier. —RH

This thing probably got so much farther out of hand than either guy expected. Though Bryson seems like an easy target, it's Brooks who has to take some responsibility in de-nuking this. Not everybody loves Brooks, either, and it would probably do his rep some good to be the better man here. —TL

I’m not sure what there is to say at this point. They tried to do that at Liberty National in 2019 and it didn’t work. They clearly don’t see eye-to-eye. I’m not even sure how much of this is about Brooks vs. Bryson now; it’s morphed into Bryson vs. fans yelling Brooksy. As stated previously, the only thing that’s going to change fan behavior is if Brooks asks them to. —DR

Are you concerned for Bryson’s mental health or safety?

His safety, no. I don’t think fans deeply hate DeChambeau, at least not with the kind of vitriol that would produce violence. It's bullying, really—they want to get under his skin and get a reaction, but I doubt they want to cause him physical harm. There are also security guards walking with his group every time he plays. As far as mental health goes, absolutely. It has to be brutal getting heckled every single time you do your job. —DR

I've never come down in the pro-Bryson camp, but the abuse is starting to concern me. That comment not long ago from him after a bad shot—"I hate golf"—tell us there's something more going on inside that we need to pay attention to. Or that he needs to recognize in himself. He's a bright, driven, compulsive, talented guy, and you can't run like that 100 percent of the time. Something's got to give. —TL

There’s been a great awakening to the weight of psychological and emotional well-being, and that is for the good. In that same breath … I’m worried that we’re beginning to dilute its importance by categorizing every struggle and hardship through this prism. But if Bryson feels bullied, then we should show the same compassion to him as we’ve given to Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka and Matthew Wolff. —JB

I am. Over the past few weeks, it’s appeared as if the crowds are literally trying to “break” Bryson with the continuous taunts. At some point, it’s going to be too much. The fact he played as well as he did at Caves Valley is a testament to how good a player he is. —RH