The Brooks vs. Bryson beef is dead. Long live the Brooks vs. Bryson beef.
That’s not to say all of whatever it was that was going on between DeChambeau and Koepka this year will be missed. There was a nastiness to it that’s probably best put to bed, but the idea of a rivalry – a real rivalry that transcends the field of play – is the best part of any sport.
Anyone who tuned into to the American League Wild Card game on Tuesday between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees can attest to the magical properties of spontaneous hatred. The single-game-winner-take-all was like a time machine to a period when baseball was still the national pastime.
For a moment, golf had an element of that with Brooks vs. Bryson. It certainly felt genuine enough after Koepka was videoed reacting to the mere presence of DeChambeau at the PGA Championship. It felt real enough when DeChambeau brought a spork to a social media knife fight in May when he tweeted, “[Koepka] it’s nice to be living rent free in your head!”
So, things got a little out of hand. The fans at the Memorial took to heckling DeChambeau; Koepka leaned in with an impressive, and sometimes mean, social media game; and by the time the PGA Tour arrived in Atlanta for the season finale the grown-ups in the room (commissioner Jay Monahan) had to put a very public end to the dispute.
Some will say the beef ended on Sunday at the Ryder Cup when, at the urging of Justin Thomas, Koepka and DeChambeau hugged it out. The rest of the U.S. team was singing a chorus of “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” which only added to an already surreal moment.
Tuesday’s news that Brooks vs. Bryson will manifest in a mano-e-mano, made-for-TV match the day after Thanksgiving only confirmed what we all knew – Brooks vs. Bryson is over and that’s too bad.
During his press conference Wednesday from the Shriners Children’s Open, Koepka was asked about DeChambeau. Three months ago, that kind of question would have produced a sneer and contemptuous comment, but not now.
“I think it's going to change the game of golf forever, personally,” Koepka said when asked about DeChambeau’s performance in last week’s long-drive competition. “If you're going to hit it that far and you find a couple fairways, it's tough to beat. It does get very difficult when you got wedge into a hole where guys got 6-iron. Your odds are going to be in your favor. That's what he's done. It's impressive to be able to actually change a body, change the way you swing and yet still compete out here.”
There was a glimmer of hope when a reporter accidently began a question about next month’s match by calling Koepka, “Bryson.”
“I mean I think we're excited. So, it's going to be good,” Koepka allowed before throwing in the backhanded volley, “I don’t know. You can ask Bryson.”
It was uncomfortable, but it felt less about DeChambeau than the reporter’s faux pas.
What seemed to be simmering all summer has fallen flat. Maybe it was Monahan’s mandates to knock it off or U.S. captain Steve Stricker’s pleas for team unity prior to last month’s Ryder Cup that brought the peace. Whatever it was, know that golf is less interesting without Brooks vs. Bryson.
The passionate fans will still tune in to watch the world’s best players perfect an impossibly difficult game, but the edge that brilliantly bridged the gap to the general sports fan is now gone.
It’s probably for the best for DeChambeau. He found himself on the business end of one too many haymakers from Koepka and it’s clear the taunts of “Brooksie,” were taking a toll. Since the nonsense has stopped, he played well at the Ryder Cup and basked in the long-drive spotlight. It’s clear the life of a villain isn’t for him. But for golf this peace, be it manufactured or real, is a loss.
Not since the heyday of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson has the golf world been so gloriously polarized. You were either Team Bryson or Team Brooks. There were rumors that the USGA would pair the two at the U.S. Open and that Stricker would send them out as a team. Most of the speculation was nonsense, but it was entertaining, nonetheless.
Maybe it’s best that the summer of discontent will come to an end next month in Las Vegas. Maybe it’s best that the nastiness that pervades in other sports remains out of golf. But Brooks vs. Bryson will be missed.