There’ll be no confusion when fans holler “Brooksie” this week at Torrey Pines. The USGA has kept 2017-18 US Open champion Brooks Koepka and 2020 winner Bryson DeChambeau in opposite corners of the draw.
There had been whispers that officials might fan the flames of golf’s latest and most entertaining rivalry by sending Koepka and DeChambeau out in the same grouping, perhaps with 2019 winner Gary Woodland as a bridge between them. Sadly, any heavyweight matchup between two of the games more intriguing characters will have to happen organically over the weekend.
Koepka instead will tee off No 10 at 3:29pm Irish time on Thursday with Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. DeChambeau will start off at the first at 9:14pm Irish time on Thursday with reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and reigning US Amateur winner Tyler Strafaci.
Even so, their peers can’t get enough of it.
“We've certainly talked about it like other people. So it's chatter,” said Jordan Spieth. “They didn't pair them this week and stuff like that, but I'm sure it will happen soon enough. Seems like people would be interested to watch that.”
“I think it's fun,” said Webb Simpson, who speculated they might have colluded to raise their profile in the PGA Tour’s $40m Player Impact Program.
“I think they've got a rivalry now, and I think it's good for the game in the sense of rivals. I think there used to be more rivals that became well-known. We don't have that as much anymore. So I think them kind of being open and honest is good in a way because we know kind of what they think. … It would be fun to see them duel is out in a tournament here coming up, head to head on Sunday.”
Koepka and DeChambeau have had a simmering feud for several years going back to some slow-play criticism Brooks leveled at Bryson and them some retaliatory shade Bryson threw out after Brooks posed in ESPN’s body issue. Koepka fired back by pointing out all his major hardware, which until last September DeChambeau was lacking.
Things intensified again after the PGA Championship last month at Kiawah, where Koepka finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson. After the tournament, an outtake from a Golf Channel stand-up interview with Koepka revealed an epic eye-roll when DeChambeau loudly walked behind him and a subsequent abrupt and profane end of the interview take with Koepka saying: “I lost my train of thought, hearing that bullshit. … F------ Christ.”
“I don't live with regret. It got out, not a big deal,” Koepka said. “And as far as perception, I'm not really too concerned. I'm worried about what I've got to do and what I'm doing. I'm not concerned about what other people think. If I was concerned about what everybody else thought, I'd have been in a world of pain.”
The viral video prompted fans to embraced golf’s newest feud. When DeChambeau played at the Memorial Tournament, he was heckled with chants of “Brooksie!” and allegedly had some of the hecklers removed. Koepka immediately responded on Instagram with a “Hey, it’s Brooksie!” post offering free cases of beer from his sponsor, Michelob Ultra, to any fans who had their viewing experience “cut short.” “All of it's been good fun. It's been fun,” DeChambeau said. “Shoot, to be honest, people saying Brooksie's name out there, I love it. I think it's hilarious.”
Both protagonists believe the chatter is a positive for golf.
“I think it's good for the game. It's bringing new eyeballs,” he said. “It's pretty much been on every news channel. 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.”
“I think it's fun,” said DeChambeau. “There's a point where it's great banter. I personally love it. I think that, as time goes on, I hope on the weekend we can play against each other and compete. I think it would be fun and would be great for the game.”
That’s what led to the rumors that the USGA made inquiries to the players about possibly putting them out on the course together at Torrey Pines – a rumor the players have denied.
“I don't care who I'm paired with,” Koepka said. “It doesn't matter to me what goes on. It makes no difference to me. I'm out there trying to play my own game. What happens inside the ropes, it won't bother me.”
Said DeChambeau: “I would be okay with that, but there was never really anything that went through me.”