ATLANTA – “From Clovis, Calif., Bryson DeChambeau,” the first tee announcer crooned just before 2 p.m. ET Thursday at East Lake.
Polite applause, polite applause, polite applause and boom! DeChambeau launched his drive deep into the late summer sky. He was off.
There was no incident. No drunken retort from the light crowd that would tag along for his first round at the FedExCup Playoffs finale. No need to intervene.
It was the right outcome – at least the right outcome for a PGA Tour commissioner who has taken a hard line on fan nonsense. But it didn’t feel completely right.
DeChambeau and Jon Rahm, the group’s “plus-one” who only closed the gap on FedExCup front-runner Patrick Cantlay with a first-round 65, were joined by two DeKalb County Police Department uniformed officers inside the ropes, along with three Tour security officials, two additional law enforcement officers trailing the group in golf carts and an untold number of marshals.
This felt less like the start of a round than it did an uneasy standoff.
This level of security isn’t unprecedented – in his prime, Tiger Woods had similar protection on a weekly basis – but it was unequivocal. It was clear to anyone at East Lake that the Tour plans to draw an unmistakable line in the behavioral sand.
It was also clear that the Atlanta galleries weren’t here to test boundaries, and there were enough Masters logos in the crowd to know the difference between cheers and jeers. They also knew the trigger word: “Brooksie.”
On Tuesday, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan deemed “Brooksie,” at least when it’s applied to DeChambeau, verboten. On Thursday, fans were given a glimpse into how the circuit plans to enforce that decree in the form of at least a half dozen police and security officials scrutinizing every move and potential misstep. For 18 holes, they were model citizens.
For his part, DeChambeau would rather not be in this position. When asked by Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis this week if fan behavior had become a distraction DeChambeau conceded, “It’s another variable I have to take into account.”
Monahan also pointed out that the Tour had been taking a deep dive into fan behavior before the pandemic halted play in 2020 and long before DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka started their social media man-spat that spilled onto the course.
“It’s not just me,” DeChambeau said. “What’s going to happen with live betting? It’s not about me, the conversations I’ve had with everybody in the background it’s not about me, it’s about the future of the game and where we want to take this game.”
But when Tour officials say this isn’t just about DeChambeau, know that it’s all about DeChambeau. At least it’s all about DeChambeau at the moment.
For the Tour, enough is enough, and most agree. But there are concerns.
“It’s tough because I see what the Tour is trying to do by banning the word ‘Brooksie,’ but where do we go with that?” Billy Horschel said. “What else do we ban? What other words aren’t people allowed to use? If someone is called a different name, and I understand that’s a little bit disrespectful, I just hope we’re not opening up a can of worms by being a little nitpicky.”
The crackdown actually started last week at the BMW Championship, where DeChambeau lost an epic playoff to Patrick Cantlay. There was a run-in with a fan after the playoff, there was something said about “Brooksie” and, according to various reports, it appeared to trigger DeChambeau. Fans were removed from the course last week at Caves Valley, and if Thursday’s show of force was any indication, there will be more of that before this is fixed.
On Day 1 at East Lake, the temperature never climbed that high. It might have been a timing issue with DeChambeau and Rahm teeing off well before happy hour and well off the strokes-based lead. These also probably aren’t the hearts and minds the Tour hopes to change, but Thursday did provide a snapshot of what to expect in the coming months.
Monahan was clear on this: “Harassing behavior” would not be tolerated, and if that takes a roving security detail to enforce, then so be it. Anecdotally, zero tolerance worked at East Lake, but what will happen when the galleries swell to thousands on a Sunday with a title on the line and the good cheer is flowing?
This policy is sure to be put to the test, but for at least one day, civility, however manufactured, returned to the Tour and DeChambeau’s world.
Following his opening 69 that was salvaged by three consecutive birdies to finish his day, DeChambeau stopped to sign autographs with two police officers and two additional Tour security officials hovering.
It was as strange as it was civil, and it was an unmistakable sign that the days of harassing “Brooksie” chants directed at DeChambeau are over, one way or another.