What got us to this point? Every great sports beef has a flashpoint. A moment. A clearly established pivot that turns rivals into enemies. But, when it comes to Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, it isn’t that simple. There isn’t an obvious catalyst for their hatred. They’re just two guys, who’ve disliked each other for years, and now bubbling over into the public forum.
Is it childish? Yes. Stupid? Absolutely. Has it become the most compelling golf rivalry in years? You better believe it.
Why do Koepka and DeChambeau hate each other?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the beef started simmering between these two, but we know when it started to boil over. In 2019 the duo got into a spat over perceived slow play, with the pair trading barbs and going so far as talking about who could beat who in a fight. It was the early days of the feud, but the embers were there.
Absence didn’t make hearts grow fonder when golfers were home due to the pandemic, and idle time started to cause the disdain between Brooks and Bryson to play out in social media.
Every moment, no matter how insignificant, seemed to set the other off. Bryson explained how he worked out during quarantine and put on 30 pounds of muscle being away from the course, then had a run-in with a CBS cameraman during an event. Brooks was right there to poke fun.
pic.twitter.com/DTjuc48hFp— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) July 7, 2020
When they returned to the links Bryson asked for rules clarification after his ball settled near, what he believed, to be a fire ant hill. Not missing a beat, Brooks jumped on the moment again — poking fun at Bryson by telling caddie Ricky Elliot “there’s an ant,” stopping Elliot in his tracks, before revealing he was just kidding. Clearly a barb at DeChambeau.
This is where it all gets a little tricky to discern pageantry from reality. Yes, there was unquestionably dislike between the two prior to their social media run ins, but Koepka’s Kenny Powers tweet really pushed their relationship to the forefront, and both parties knew it. Koepka felt his feud with DeChambeau was good for the game of golf, telling Golf Digest:
“It’s bringing new eyeballs. Like I said last week, you’ve got different—it’s pretty much been on every news channel,” Koepka said. “Pretty much everything you look at online, it’s got this in the headline, or it’s up there as a big news story. To me, that’s growing the game. You’re putting it in front of eyeballs, you’re putting it in front of people, the game of golf, who probably don’t normally look at golf, don’t play it, might get them involved. I don’t know how it’s not growing the game.”
Was this truly a pure example of two competitors just not liking each other, or were they playing it up for the publicity? Either way, it worked. No longer a sideshow, fans were hanging on every moment of the feud and waiting to see what would happen next.
It was a pure dislike that spread from the golfers to their fans through osmosis. Koepka fans began calling DeChambeau “Brooksy” at events, which was weird because that’s … not his name. It was a goofy name that really made zero sense, but it annoyed DeChambeau enough that he got fans ejected for it. This put fuel on the fire once more, and Koepka offered to buy the ejected fans beers, only because they annoyed his rival.
Then, everything came to a head when Koepka became a meme at the PGA Championship. Koepka broke during a post-round conversation with the media when DeChambeau walked past, making a point of making as much noise on the pavement as he could with his spikes.
The moment was captured forever.
“Sometimes, um … I lost my train of thought,” Koepka said, “hearing that bulls***.”
We had a rivalry growing in intensity, fans were invested, now we had a meme to go along with it. This was no longer just a side note in golf, but a story that everyone in the sports world wanted to know more about. We love it when two athletes hate each other, and this one looked like it was headed for a blow up.
Beef was back on the menu for the U.S. Open
One major question remained: Would the U.S. Open pair Koepka and DeChambeau together to increase the chance of fireworks? Rumors abounded that it was the plan. Broadcaster (and former tour winner) Brad Faxon claims the USGA offered to pair them together, which DeChambeau declined.
Now, Bryson’s camp has been vehemently denied he was offered the chance — because as it stands the assumption is that he’s dodging Koepka. In the narrative of their rivalry, which has positioned DeChambeau as the villain, then dodging Brooks is the coward’s response, and people are picking up on it.
For what it’s worth. Koepka is echoing DeChambeau, saying he wasn’t asked about being paired with his rival, and the USGA are denying it happened as well. However, despite this the damage has been done. Perception has now trumped reality, and the belief is that DeChambeau didn’t want a part of this.
So where does this all stand?
Ask any fight promoter and they’ll tell you that the skill in building a bout is keeping the public hooked for as long as possible. Had Brooks and Bryson been paired at the U.S. Open it would have been rushing the main event.
As far as most of the sporting world in concerned, this rivalry is fairly fresh. Now it’s time to milk this one out for a while. The U.S. Open is too soon for this to come to a head. We need more incidents, more back-and-forth, and more bad blood to rise up and make their eventual pairing a can’t-miss event.
There is no doubt something will happen between Brooks and Bryson at the U.S. Open, because after all, these are two guys who don’t like each other. But, we might need to wait a touch longer for the blow off, and that’s okay. There’s more professional wrestling in sports than anyone cares to admit, and both golfers know what they’re doing is making themselves, and each other more famous as a result.