After nearly quitting, Bryson DeChambeau enthusiastically tackling 2022 that includes start in controversial Saudi International

As quick as one of his most powerful swings, Bryson DeChambeau brushed aside a question concerning controversy surrounding the upcoming Saudi International.

“So, not a politician, first off,” he said Thursday in a video conference with the media ahead of next month’s tournament in the Middle East. “I’m a golfer, first and foremost, and I want to play where the best golfers in the world are going to play. And that is the end of the story for me.”

It was the only time DeChambeau was curt and agitated during a 30-minute Zoom call with the media ahead of the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

The tournament is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and has come under harsh criticism by many who think the event and others empowered by Saudis is an attempt to cover up human rights abuses. A piece in the Washington Post said players taking millions in appearance fees are accepting blood money.

The tournament is no longer associated with the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour; it is now a part Asian Tour. Saudi Arabia made a $200 million investment in the tour last year.

Instead of addressing the controversy at length, DeChambeau, 28, who finished in a tie for 18th in 2021 and in a tie for sixth in 2019 in his two previous starts in the Saudi International, enthusiastically spoke to a host of other topics. The world No. 8 and 2020 U.S. champion confirmed he recently became a partial owner of the Professional Long Drivers Association; he will continue to be a major presence on social media to tell his story and offer up tips on how to play the game; he is confident he will get longer on the golf course; and he spoke to his renewed love for the game. He even went deep on why he’s sporting a golf cap these days instead of a tam o’shanter.

“I feel like I’m turning a bit of a page in my life, in my chapter and my book,” he said. “As I’ve always said, I’m always evolving and changing and growing and adapting. It’s just another one of those things. I don’t know if it will be a thing to stay or it pops up randomly. It’s going to be one that is just going to keep you guys on edge, I guess. It just depends on what I feel like and what I’m comfortable with that week.”

DeChambeau’s 2021 was marked by controversy – his social media spat with Brooks Koepka, disparaging his equipment, his questionable stance toward not taking the COVID-19 vaccine, his refusal to speak to the print media, and contemplating a possible departure from the game.

But it also had many highlights, among them his eighth PGA Tour title coming in the Arnold Palmer Invitational; a thrilling playoff loss to Patrick Cantlay in the BMW Championship and finishing third in the Players Championship; a stunning run en route to finishing seventh in the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championships; and his play in the Ryder Cup.

Yet DeChambeau thought about walking away from the game. He said the lowlight of 2021 came when he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss the Olympics. After quarantining, he returned at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He explained his reasoning for not taking the vaccine, which was roundly chastised – and he stopped speaking to the print media.

“This once great game that was giving me so much just turned quite a bit on me,” DeChambeau said about that time. “I feel like it’s not worth it anymore. As time has gone on, that has changed. I have grown. I have learned the place that I’m in.

“Is it difficult and frustrating sometimes still? Absolutely, just like anything. But my whole goal is I want to inspire and show off a little bit when I’m able to hit it really far and really straight one day and then chip it and putt it well. That’s my favorite thing to do, and I want to continue to do that.

“That’s what kept me moving in the right way.”

DeChambeau is resting this week to make sure the soreness in his left wrist that forced him to withdraw from this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii is completely gone. DeChambeau, who finished in a tie for 25th in the field of 38 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui last week, said he will play the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in two weeks before heading to Saudi Arabia.

Here are other topics DeChambeau addressed, among others.

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