Bryson DeChambeau was one of the earliest and most high-profile defectors to the breakaway LIV Golf series, taking part in the league's second event in Portland, Oregon last July.
The 2020 US Open champion joined the breakway league alongside several other major names such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, and Brooks Koepka, and has courted controversy in the year since.
LIV has been heavily scrutinised not only for the eye-watering sums of money on offer to the players, but also for its on course format, with shotgun starts and team play among the innovations offered by golf's latest tour.
Most contentious, however, has been the heavy backing for the series from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) - the same organisation which recently gained control of Newcastle United Football Club.
Given the poor history of human rights in Saudi Arabia, the links with LIV Golf have proved hugely controversial since the series' inception, and has led to criticism from groups representing the bereaved families of the September 11 attacks, among others.
Speaking after the stunning news of LIV's impending merger with the PGA and DP World Tours, Bryson DeChambeau spoke to CNN on the controversies surrounding LIV Golf - and gave an uncomfortable answer when questioned on the most recent statement made by the 9/11 Families United group.
Bryson DeChambeau makes uncomfortable remarks on Saudi Arabia after LIV merger announced
Yasir Al-Rumayyan - Saudi governor of PIF
Bryson DeChambeau made his feelings clear on the merging of LIV Golf, the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour, both in a tweet made on Tuesday evening, and in his remarks when speaking to CNN.
Monumental day for the game of golf.
— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) June 6, 2023
However, there are difficult questions to be faced about the increasing Saudi influence over world golf, with the 9/11 Families United group making a statement expressing their hurt at the move to allow Saudi involvement in the world game of golf:
PGA [Tour] Commissioner Jay Monahan co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the (PGA Tour's) unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sportswashing of Saudi Arabia's reputation.
But now the PGA [Tour] and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the Kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones.
Make no mistake – we will never forget
The involvement of Saudi Arabian terrorists in the September 11 attacks of 2001 has been a point of debate ever since the inception of LIV Golf and, after a perceived victory for the series with the announcement of the unification of the men's game on Tuesday, Bryson DeChambeau was quizzed on the subject in a CNN interview.
Bryson DeChambeau, an early recruit to the Saudi-backed LIV tour, on the PGA merger shocker and criticism from the families of 9/11 victims: pic.twitter.com/i1R6AWjw1Z
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 7, 2023
DeChambeau's response was rather unsatisfactory and uncomfortable. The major winner appeared to suggest that the time had come to move past the emotional impact of the attacks on the bereaved families.
He went on to say that the Saudi Arabian authorities were working on becoming "better allies," and pivoted the conversation towards the entertainment that would be offered up to golf fans worldwide:
I think we'll never be able to repay the families back for what exactly happened just over 20 years ago. What happened is definitely horrible.
I think, as time has gone on, 20 years has passed, and we're in a place now where it's time to start trying to work together to make things better together as a whole.
I have deep sympathy. I don't know exactly what they are feeling - I can't ever know what they feel. But I have a huge amount of respect for their position and what they believe. Nor do I want anything like that ever to happen again.
I think as we move forward from that, we've got to look towards a pathway to peace and forgiveness, especially as we're trying to mend the world and make it a better place.
This is what they're trying to accomplish, what LIV is trying to accomplish, the PIF is trying to accomplish, we're all trying to accomplish, is a better world for everybody, and a way to provide great entertainment for everybody around the world.
DeChambeau was then pushed on the alleged murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents, and the country's poor human rights record. Once again, he attempted to dodge the issues at the heart of the debate:
It's unfortunate what has happened, and that's something I can't necessarily speak on as I'm a golfer.
What I can say is what they're trying to do, what they're trying to work on, is to be better allies. We are allies with them.
I'm not going to get into politics, I'm not specialised in that - what I can say is that they are trying to do good for the world, and showcase themselves in a light that hasn't been seen for a while.
Nobody's perfect, but we're all trying to improve in life.
The level of control Saudi Arabia holds over world golf is only set to increase, with the expansion of LIV Golf to partner with golf's two biggest global tours, and the likes of Bryson DeChambeau can expect more uncomfortable questions in the months to come.