The nature of being an elite professional golfer is that every move you make, every word you say and every action you take is scrutinized. The messy complexities of everyday life can often lose their nuance as golf enthusiasts crave the juiciest bite in the latest snap story.
When news surfaced last week that a day before the start of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, world number 6 Bryson DeChambeau and his six-year-old junior Tim Tucker were breaking up, social media speculation escalated. .
What happened? Why now? Where was the fall?
In an exclusive interview with GOLF.com, DeChambeau, GOLF’s game editor, and former caddy Tucker shared their side of the story.
The pair opened up about the curious timing of the split, the pressures of life in the public eye and Tucker’s next move. They also announced Tucker’s successor: Brian Zeigler, a rising star in golf education, who will take over as DeChambeau’s full-time looper at the Open Championship next week.
The midweek split
The only place to start is the obvious question: What was the reason Tucker and DeChambeau split the day before the first round of the Detroit event?
“To be honest, there really isn’t,” Tucker says.
Instead, he said, the breakup was the result of a confluence of factors.
DeChambeau’s long hours of driving around the driving range and his intensive travel schedule were taking their toll, both physically and emotionally. When Tucker wasn’t in DeChambeau’s bag, the former Bandon Dunes caddy was working on a new Bandon Dunes-based luxury bus transport company called Loop, which is slated to launch in August.
“We were really tired. The season; the program of the tour weighed on us, weighed on me. I knew I was working on this side business; we had a very intense relationship where he works a lot of hours, ”he said. “It was kind of because I wasn’t 100% healthy and happy… we made the best decision for both of us.”
At the end of 2020, Tucker had spoken openly with DeChambeau about setting up a plan for the day Tucker could no longer caddy. There was no specific timeline, but DeChambeau and Tucker were preparing for the transition by prepping Zeigler for the role. On Tuesday night of Rocket Mortgage week, the schedule suddenly became clear. DeChambeau described it as a “curved ball”.
“But that’s life,” DeChambeau said. “The guy helped me win a major and eight other times. I will always be very grateful for everything he has done for me and what he has helped me accomplish. I still have nothing more to say than amazing things about Tim.
Tucker said his only regret is when this happened.
“I wish we had finished the week,” he said. “[Bryson] was probably not as focused on golf as he should have been, and I’m largely responsible for that.
DeChambeau on his relationship with Tucker
DeChambeau’s week of defending his Rocket Mortgage Classic title did not go as planned. Even before the cadet drama, he entered the weary event of seven starts in nine weeks. Then, with a new face on the bag – Ben Schomin, Cobra-Puma’s director of tour operations – and speculation suddenly raging around him, DeChambeau only missed the cut for the second time since last August. As he returned home to Dallas for a few days off before facing Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson in The Match, DeChambeau said he kept hearing rumors of a breakup in his relationship with Tucker. which, according to him, had never existed.
“Everyone still thinks there was some sort of falling out, but it really wasn’t. It had been in the works for a while, ”said DeChambeau. “Tim is a very, very good friend of mine. She’s someone I cared about, and still care about, and will care about for the rest of my life.
Now, says DeChambeau, he’s eagerly awaiting the next phase of their relationship, and he plans to take Tucker on his standing offer this offseason to try helicopter hog hunting.
Everyone still thinks there was some sort of falling out, but it really wasn’t. It was in the works for a while.
“We’re still friends, I’m still going to talk to him, I’m still going to call him, hang out,” DeChambeau said. “I think from my point of view it’s a good thing for both of us.”
A week later, DeChambeau says the moment served as a reminder of the media scrutiny all top professional athletes face. He says like so many others in the limelight, he’s learning to navigate – and says he’s even sought advice from Tiger Woods in the past to do so – but it’s a learning curve to which it always adapts.
“People have to realize that I am a person before I am a golfer. ” he said. “I like to give everyone what they want. But it was only then that I realized, ‘Wow, I can’t give it my all’, because I also have the right to have a little privacy about my own situations.
Tucker on what people are wrong about DeChambeau
Tucker said he also wants to dispel any idea that there are negative feelings between the two.
Tucker met DeChambeau at the age of 15 and had no idea how a child fascinated by the technical details of the golf swing would change his life.
“I wasn’t making a lot of money,” said Tucker, who did a stint in the military before moving on to golf. “I was making a good living, but all of a sudden Bryson became a superstar. I was grateful to be a part of that success, and the result of our hard work gave me the opportunity to send my kids to college. What more could you ask for? I owe Bryson a lot.
As Tucker prepares to launch his new business, the lasting lesson he takes from his time on DeChambeau’s sack is the work ethic of the 2020 US Open champion. It’s that hard work and intensity. said Tucker, which often leads people to misunderstand DeChambeau.
“One of the things about Bryson that is misunderstood by people is how he demands so much of himself,” he said. “The kid works so hard. He’s the hardest working guy I’ve ever seen. He didn’t have a date in high school. He didn’t go to parties. He went to the golf course and worked on his game. Ditto in college. Just grind, grind, grind to be where he is today.
Zeigler on his new role
Every player-caddy relationship is different, but it’s time to “show up, follow yourself and shut up”. While the player always hits the punches, the modern Tour pro sees his caddy as a full member of the team. Knowing that Tucker wouldn’t be on the sack for the rest of Bryson’s career, DeChambeau approached Zeigler late last year to discuss succession when the time came.
Zeigler is the head instructor at DeChambeau’s home course, Dallas National, and is coach Chris Como’s right-hand man. His role was especially important during DeChambeau’s speed workouts inside Como’s house: it was Zeigler in the room pushing DeChambeau to swing faster – and taunting him whenever he didn’t. did not.
“Brian has been a part of my life for a while now,” DeChambeau said. “We did a lot of speed training stuff together. He was the motivator and the man behind the hype. He helped me reach new [personal records] I never thought I would get there.
Caddy for DeChambeau is one of the most unique jobs in golf. DeChambeau says he and his caddy calculate the effects of air density before each complete shot. It was a system he and Tucker devised that at one point led the couple to measure the effects of golf balls that had spent hours in a freezer. Understanding the nuances of this system, said DeChambeau, as well as being a great green reader are the two most important technical attributes of a good shopping cart.
Zeigler has worked with Tim for the past six months to figure out these technical details – “he’s been a big help,” Zeigler said – and combined with his teaching background, said it’s a challenge for which he was ready.
According to Zeigler, the keys to the job include “managing a player around the course; let a player run when he wants to run; develop a strategy, implement a strategy.
“From a caddy teaching perspective, there’s a lot of intersection between these two things,” he added.
With Zeigler set to take the sack next week at the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, it’s not the intricate details of DeChambeau’s air density system that scares him the most about his new one. concert. Instead, these are the basics.
“The typical little things that [caddies] already know, ”says Zeigler. “This is what I will need time to learn.”