Bryson DeChambeau celebrates after making his putt on the 18th hole during the final round at the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club (West Course) in Mamaroneck, N.Y. on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (Chris Keane/USGA)

DeChambeau’s popularity screams for PGA Tour/LIV merger!

I’ve made no secret about that I am a PGA Tour guy when it comes to the Tour vs. LIV.

As players left the PGA Tour for LIV there were very few, I cared that left. In fact, there are only two I was sorry to see leave and still miss them on the Tour today – Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

And following last week’s U.S. Open, both now have a pair of U.S. Open titles. Koepka won his in 2017 and 2018, with DeChambeau winning in 2020, and then again last week.

But it wasn’t without some controversy involving PGA Tour figure head Rory McIlroy.

I think people made way too much out of McIlroy leaving after DeChambeau won and not congratulating the winner, as DeChambeau did with Xander Schauffele after Schauffele won the PGA earlier this year.

For starters there’s a big difference as to how the two tournaments unfolded at the end.

At the PGA DeChambeau shot a bogey-free 64 in the final round to make a huge run at the title, but Schauffele finished with a 65 to hold off DeChambeau’s charge.

At the U.S. Open. DeChambeau struggled to a 1-over 71 in the final round and on the back nine, McIlroy went from three down to DeChambeau, to a two-shot lead with four to play.

Then it all caved in as McIlroy had three bogeys and a par on those final four holes. Two of those bogeys came by missing putts of less than four feet.

So crushing was the loss that McIlroy left the course without congratulating DeChambeau. The right move – probably not – but it’s easy for those that have never been in a spot like that – and never will – to throw shade at McIlroy.

McIlroy is stepping away from the game until the Scottish Open, which is right before The British Open. He withdrew from the Travelers this week.

I am guessing that there are many athletes across the professional sports world that would have done exactly the same thing.

It’s easy to sit back and say he should have shown better sportsmanship but once again, if you haven’t walked in those shoes …

On Monday McIlroy broke his silence on social media. The first part of his message spoke volumes about a couple of things.

“Yesterday was a tough day, probably the toughest I’ve had in my nearly 17 years as professional golfer,” he wrote. “Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Bryson. He is a worthy champion and exactly what professional golf needs right now. I think we can all agree on that.”

First, he sums up the enormity of his finish with how devastating it was. But it was the second part of the message that piqued my interest.

For years now Tiger Woods has been the guy that moves the needle in golf, and he still does with as little as he plays. Tiger’s is in a tournament people are going to watch.

Now, I’m starting to get that vibe from DeChambeau. I have not watched a LIV tournament and can’t see myself in the foreseeable future. But a major that features DeChambeau and I’m all in.

While some LIV golfers are getting less than favorable reception from golf fans at a major, DeChambeau and to a lesser extent Koepka, are getting a pass.

In DeChambeau, it’s more than getting a pass – he’s the fan favorite. Unless Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Max Homa, or Rickie Fowler is in contention, the crowd is going to be behind DeChambeau.

That is not to take anything away from world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. While Scheffler’s game is out of this world, he scores very low on the charismatic scale.

That’s not Scheffler’s fault and I love watching him play, but the casual golf fan – those that take viewership to the next level – are not getting much of a vibe from Scheffler.

Xander Schauffele is an amazing player but he’s not far above Scheffler on the charisma meter. Great player, appreciate the crazy skill level, but not jumping out of my chair any time soon.

The American sports fans appreciate brilliance but embrace personality/characters. People are not rooting against certain players, but they are fanatical about someone that embraces the fans.

The videos from after the Open were amazing. It was dark and there was DeChambeau signing autographs by the light of cell phones.

He was determined not to leave unless he fulfilled every request.

Earlier this week, DeChambeau was roaming the streets of downtown Nashville carrying the U.S. Open trophy. No special protection – just some carrying the trophy around and posing for pictures.

He even showed up at George Kittle’s Tight End University, an annual gathering for NFL tight ends put together by George Kittle.

This could be the key to resolving the PGA Tour-LIV rift. It’s evident the fans want DeChambeau out on the PGA Tour and that is not going to happen unless everything gets settled.

Koepke is another with a big following but it’s different than DeChambeau. Koepka has always been one of my favorites because he is honest and holds nothing back.

He’s not safe and reserved – he shoots from the hip. The rest of the LIV guys – who cares. Sure, there are some that still love to watch Phil Mickelson play but not like there used to be.

We need passion to go with the skills. The fist pumping and screaming is why Patrick Reed, for all his transgressions, still had fans that rooted for him.

Moving forward let’s see if can get everyone together again. Golf needs it as a sport.

By Dennis Miller