SANDWICH, England – Brooks Koepka is the gritty gift that just keeps giving.
He could have squashed his beef with Bryson DeChambeau weeks ago. He could have taken the high road and sailed above it all. He could have said nothing, which is the preferred method of crisis management for professional athletes.
But where’s the fun in that?
Nearly two months after his beef with DeChambeau boiled over at the PGA Championship, Koepka doubled down on his painfully obvious distaste for his PGA Tour colleague when the subject of the Ryder Cup came up.
“You realize it's only a week, right?” he challenged when asked if he’d consider talking things out with DeChambeau before this year’s matches. “I can deal with anybody in the world for a week.”
Say what you will about Brooks – and there is plenty to be said about the world No. 8 – but there is no questioning his honesty on this issue. While U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker would rather all of this remain behind team-room doors, that’s not Koepka. In this case, it’s a matter of questions being asked and questions being answered.
“I'm not playing with him. I'm pretty sure we're not going to be paired together, put it that way. I think it's kind of obvious,” Koepka said. “We're not going to be high-fiving and having late-night conversations. I do my thing; he does his thing.”
Koepka’s commentary on Tuesday at The Open Championship didn’t stop at the U.S. team-room door.
In case there was any thought that the summer of discontent was coming to an end, Koepka clarified - in his mind - that the gulf between the two dates to the 2019 Northern Trust, when a slow-play conversation escalated quickly.
“We had a conversation at Liberty National, and he didn't hold up his end of the bargain and I didn't like that, so I'll take my shots,” Koepka said.
Koepka’s “shots” have included some top-notch social media trolling and even a little light bullying at the Memorial.
It all surfaced after the PGA Championship, when an un-aired interview went viral showing Koepka fuming after DeChambeau walks behind him. It could have stopped there, but Koepka crossed the line during the Memorial when he posted a video on social media rewarding fans who had been removed from Muirfield Village for calling DeChambeau, “Brooksie,” with free beer.
Koepka kept the good times rolling two weeks ago after news that DeChambeau and his caddie, Tim Tucker, had split. Koepka quickly took to Twitter: “Couldn’t do it without my guy Rick [Elliott]! Best friend and greatest caddie to do it. [Elliott] appreciation day!”
Maybe Koepka has taken this too far. Maybe it’s time to lower the temperature, at least publicly. DeChambeau certainly seems more than willing to let his high-profile dust-up fade from the news cycle.
“He can say whatever he wants. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t remember anything about [an agreement at Liberty National],” DeChambeau said a few hours after Koepka had met with the media. “I’m here to play golf.”
But Brooks has no interest in such neutrality. In fact, when pressed for how, exactly, DeChambeau didn’t “hold up his end of the bargain” in 2019 at Liberty National, Koepka was more than happy to fill in the blanks.
“He didn't like that I had mentioned his name in slow play [regarding an incident earlier that year in Dubai], so we had a conversation in the locker room, and then I guess we said something else in the press conference but didn't mention his name in it, and he walked up to Ricky, said, ‘You tell your man if he's got something to say, say it to [my face],” Koepka explained. “I thought that was ironic because he went straight to Ricky.”
Koepka continued, telling reporters he and DeChambeau agreed to keep whatever issues they have with each other private. It was something of a tense “keep my name out of your mouth,” but it was an uneasy peace that didn’t last.
“Then he decided I guess he was going on that little, whatever, playing video games online or whatever [Twitch stream] and brought my name up and said a few things, so now it's fair game,” Koepka said.
Again, question asked, question answered.
It all leads to the juicy possibility here at golf’s oldest and most proper championship of a Brooks vs. Bryson duel this weekend.
Unlike the USGA, which according to various reports considered such manufactured drama in the early rounds at last month’s U.S. Open, the R&A had no interest in a Thursday/Friday title bout. That simply wouldn’t happen at this championship, on this golf course.
Instead, the golf world waits for the glorious possibility of a heavyweight clash with a monsoon of subtext this weekend.
“I would enjoy it,” shrugged Koepka, as unenthused and unapologetic as ever. “I'll be close to the final group come Sunday. I always feel like I play well in the big events, the majors. I think it would be a lot more people tuning in, with everything that's gone on over the last two years, something like that, three years.”
Koepka is a uniquely talented player. He’s solely focused on the game’s biggest events and his Grand Slam resume is historically impressive. He’s also proven to be the game’s preeminent hype-man who transcends acceptable standards for a more direct, and honest, approach.
He could have let his beef with DeChambeau burn itself out, but that wouldn’t be Brooks Koepka – the gift that just keeps giving.