The feud on (and off) the fairways… ‘Mad Scientist’ Bryson DeChambeau and ‘Bruiser’ Brooks Koepka are two of golf’s biggest names and have been trading blows… but who will land the knockout at the US Open?
- Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka have won three of last four US opens
- America Ryder cup captain Steve Stricker is ‘not happy’ with the pair’s rivalry
- DeChambeau and Koepka initially clashed over the former’s apparent ‘slow play’
Who would have thought that anyone could compete with Phil Mickelson for headlines at the US Open in his hometown of San Diego this week?
The history man, following his stunning victory at the US PGA Championship at the age of 50 last month, is trying to complete the career Grand Slam at the major where he has been the bridesmaid on six occasions. How does anyone else get a look-in?
Step forward Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka and an enmity that is the talk of both the locker room and the returning fans. In an era when golfers have been taken to task by the legends of old for being too friendly, here are a couple of swells with a genuine dislike for one another.
Bryson DeChambeau is set to renew his rivalry with Brooks Koepka at the US Open
Bitter rivals DeChambeau and Koepka (pictured) have won three of the last four US Opens
Given they have won three of the last four US Opens between them, a rivalry with a touch of edge was only to be expected. But this one is not about the titles. This is about the tittle-tattle. Lots of it.
The latest instalment has so gripped the sport that, while doing the promotional rounds in Detroit last week, DeChambeau had to remind his inquisitive audience that he was there to talk about the Rocket Mortgage Classic where he is the defending champion, not Brooks the bruiser.
Now comes the major where he is defending and if the Mad Scientist thinks his press conference at Torrey Pines on Tuesday is going to be a gentle stroll recalling his mammoth drives at Winged Foot last September, he might find they are not the blows people ask about.
As for Koepka, he tried to brush their feud off last week as ‘good for growing the game’ and it has certainly piqued the interest of the social media millennials. But there is a lot more to it than that, as American Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker acknowledged on Friday when he weighed in on the prospect of having two warring team-mates in September.
US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker is not happy with DeChambeau and Koepka’s rivalry
‘It doesn’t make me happy when I see them going back and forth on social media,’ he said. ‘I’m sure they’ll both be on the team, so we’ll need to get them together and make it good for everybody. We need to unite and play well as a team.’
Where did it all start? As so often when two people square up in golf, it had its seeds in the game’s equivalent to road rage — slow play. In 2019, DeChambeau was painfully slow and, when a video surfaced of him taking more than two minutes to putt, plenty piled in, including Koepka, who is among the swiftest.
His comments were the ones that cut DeChambeau to the quick. On the putting green the following week, he told Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott that if his man had anything to say, he should do it face to face. When Elliott passed on the news, Koepka was only too willing to take up the invitation and a meeting followed behind closed doors featuring a frank exchange of views.
Soon after, the pair turned up on ESPN radio where they discussed DeChambeau’s pace of play in public. ‘People think y’all are going to end up having a fight,’ said Michael Collins, the host. ‘I think we know who would win that one and it wouldn’t be me,’ said DeChambeau.
DeChambeau (pictured) and Koepka initially clashed over the pace of the former’s play
Koepka likes to give the impression that nothing bothers him but, in fact, he has skin as thin as a bee’s wing. When he portrayed his muscle-bound physique in a fitness magazine, DeChambeau joked on social media that ‘Koepka’s got no abs. I’ve got more abs.’ Ouch. Koepka could not let that one go, posting a picture of his four major titles, with a silky rejoinder to the then major-less DeChambeau: ‘Bryson’s right — I’m two short of a six pack.’ So far, so sixth grade.
It was after the lockdown that things turned nasty. DeChambeau returned a new man, bulked up and hitting the ball out of the park. Suddenly, the media were only interested in one golfer and it was not the one who had won back-to-back US PGA and US Open titles in the space of three years. Koepka’s chippy response? A video that went viral, featuring a bulked-up, fictional basketball player confronting steroid accusations.
So to the latest instalment and another video at the last major that also went viral. Koepka gave an interview, detailing his putting woes as DeChambeau, chuntering loudly to himself, walked past.
Koepka froze. He closed his eyes theatrically. ‘I’ve lost my train of thought… listening to that bulls**t,’ he exclaimed. When the interviewer, Todd Lewis, told him the video would be a big hit in-house, Koepka breezily replied: ‘Honestly, I wouldn’t care if it leaked out.’
Koepka offered beer to fans who were thrown out of the Memorial for taunting DeChambeau
After it did leak out, fans at the Memorial Tournament nine days ago had a field day. ‘Let’s go Brooksie,’ they yelled incessantly at DeChambeau, leading to some being thrown out. At home in Florida, Koepka offered a crate of beer to anyone whose ‘day was cut short’.
It is hard to imagine that Koepka’s subsequent ‘growing the game’ malarkey distracted PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan. The video was an act of incitement to heckle another player and told everyone exactly what he thought of DeChambeau, whose handlers discussed it with Monahan last week.
So, what can we expect at Torrey Pines? Golf clubs at dawn? A couple of pairs of boxing gloves left wrapped around the 18th flag? Fans taking sides and making it clear who they support?
Koepka won back to back US Open titles in 2017 and 2018, DeChambeau won it in 2020
It is safe to assume the USGA will keep DeChambeau and Koepka apart in the draw on Tuesday for the opening two rounds.
This is the major where we have seen fireworks from the pair over the last four years, with Koepka winning the title in 2017 and 2018. The 31-year-old has the bit between his teeth following a near miss at the US PGA at Kiawah and DeChambeau, back in his home state, is ripe for a shot at a successful defence.
Imagine if they were in the final group next Sunday?
TIMELINE OF THE SPAT
Jan 2019, ROUND 1
Brooks Koepka criticises Bryson DeChambeau’s slow play: ‘I don’t know how it takes a minute and 20 seconds to hit a golf ball. It is not that hard.’ DeChambeau responds: ‘It’s actually quite impressive that we are able to get all that stuff done in 45 seconds. People don’t realise that it is very difficult to do everything we do in 45 seconds.’
Jan 2020, ROUND 2
DeChambeau remarks on Koepka’s appearance in a fitness magazine: ‘He doesn’t have any abs, to be honest. I’ve got some abs!’ Koepka responds on Twitter with a photo of his four major trophies and the words, ‘You were right, I am 2 short of a 6 pack!’
Jul 2020, ROUND 3
At the St Jude Invitational, DeChambeau asks for relief from a rules official because of a fire-ant hill near his ball. During his round the next day, Koepka points to the ground and says to his caddie: ‘Look, there’s an ant’. When Ricky Elliott cannot see anything, Koepka says: ‘Nah, I’m just kidding.’
May 2021, ROUND 4
During a TV interview with Koepka at the USPGA, DeChambeau walks past in the background and Koepka is caught rolling his eyes after being distracted. He asks for another take of the interview. Footage goes viral.
Jun 2021, ROUND 5
DeChambeau is subjected to shouts of ‘Brooksy’ during the Memorial Tournament, leading to the removal of some offenders. Koepka offers those who were thrown out a free case of beer.
Last week . . .
Koepka commiserates with American football quarterback Aaron Rogers, who will be paired with DeChambeau in a charity game. His nemesis fires back a tweet: ‘@BKoepka It’s nice to be living rent free in your head!’
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