Rory McIlroy has voiced his sympathy for Bryson DeChambeau over the criticism the world No.7 has endured of late.
DeChambeau has become a target for heckling at various events over the summer following an escalation in his public feud with fellow American Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship in May.
As recently as last weekend, the former US Open champion was reportedly involved in an angry confrontation with a fan who called him “Brooksie” at the conclusion of the BMW Championship, DeChambeau allegedly telling the spectator to “get the f**k out of here”.
Yesterday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that any fan caught making a similar comment to DeChambeau at future tournaments would face the threat of expulsion following updates made to the tour’s fan code of conduct.
Ahead of this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake, McIlroy was asked for his take on matters.
“I certainly feel some sympathy for him,” said the Northern Irishman. “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. He is his own person. He thinks his own thoughts and everyone has a right to do that.
“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, deep down, I think, is a nice person and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be.
"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, no stranger to heckles from the galleries himself, has welcomed the PGA Tour’s decision to adopt a tougher stance against misbehaving spectators.
“As golfers, there's a very thin rope that separates us from the fans, and then you hit a shot off line, and you have to go into the fans to hit it. So we get a little closer to them than some other sports.
“I think some of it crosses the line. I think certain other sports’ culture has fed into our game and fed into the fanbase. 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. The players are certainly held to a higher standard than other sports, so why wouldn't our fanbase be.
“But 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.”