In 2004, when Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton paired Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods together at Oakland Hills, it was considered bold.
Not because it was the No. 2- and No. 4-ranked players in the world playing together in one group, but because Mickelson and Woods had a rivalry that was considered unfriendly. The two didn’t say as much publicly, but it was known that they weren’t sharing bottles of wine or comparing calves off the course.
They were partners in two sessions and came away with zero points.
In hindsight, that rivalry now seems benign compared to what current Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker is dealing with when it comes to the feud between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.
The fact that Mickelson and Woods were paired together at all shows how much more animosity there is between DeChambeau and Koepka, who have said we shouldn’t expect the two to play together at Whistling Straits. Koepka went as far to say that they won’t be hanging out at night or high-fiving after any victories, either.
They both agreed to put the feud aside for the week for the good of the team to try to help the United States to victory over Europe. But even that required a conversation with Stricker and the latter having to act like a parent warning their young children that if they act up in front of company, they’ll be grounded.
Whether we’ll actually see them put the beef aside, or if we’ll see two kids sent to their rooms yelling “He started it,” isn’t the point. It’s that it has gotten to a level that it needs to be addressed and the two will be forced to be civil in what is supposed to be the game’s greatest team event.
Even outside of the Ryder Cup, the clash has taken on such a wave of momentum that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced a new rule geared toward fans yelling, “Brooksy” at DeChambeau during tournaments. Violations could get fans tossed from events.
How did it get to this point? What started this back-and-forth and why has it escalated to the point that the adults in the room had to step in to stop it?
It started with slow play
Before this all moved to social media, Koepka made a comment in January 2019 about slow play at the Dubai Desert Classic.
He didn’t mention DeChambeau by name, but at the time, DeChambeau was at the center of conversation for his methodical approach to each shot.
“I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it’s not that hard,” Koepka said at the time. “It’s always between two clubs. There’s a miss short, there’s a miss long. It really drives me nuts especially when it’s a long hitter because you know you’ve got two other guys or at least one guy that’s hitting before you, so you can do all your calculations, you should have your numbers.”
DeChambeau was asked about it, but responded subtly that a lot goes into a shot and there’s a lot of calculating he’s doing in 45 seconds.
Fast forward to August at the Northern Trust, when a video of DeChambeau taking more than three minutes to hit a 70-yard shot went viral.
anyone need a nap?
here’s DeChambeau pacing off a 70-yard shot which took over 3 minutes to hit (couldn’t post the entire video it took so long) pic.twitter.com/7A3Azeftyu
— Eric Patterson (@EPatGolf) August 9, 2019
Another video went viral that week, showing DeChambeau taking more than two minutes to read an 8-foot putt on the eighth hole. The video showed playing partners Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood visibly bored by the amount of time it was taking to read the putt, only to watch DeChambeau miss the birdie try and tap in for par.
It was hard to! ⏰
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) August 10, 2019
Other players, including Luke Donald, Rich Beem, Joel Dahmen, Eddie Pepperell and Ian Poulter, criticized the video on social media and were vocal that the tour needed to step in and do something about the pace of play.
And after all that miss read it by 2 cups 🤦🏼♂️
— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) August 10, 2019
Just look at Tommy and Justin, both looking completely bored. Slow players do this to their playing partners making the game less enjoyable. Problem is, the unaffected single minded twit in this instance, doesn’t care much for others.
— Eddie Pepperell (@PepperellEddie) August 10, 2019
That, of course, caused DeChambeau to go on the defensive and talk about the criticism he has received. He believed it was unfair and pointed to different factors throughout a round that can contribute to slow play.
DeChambeau also noted that there were other players who were also habitually slow and that when people start talking about his slow play and how he is killing the game, it was unfounded criticism.
“Sure, Eddie Pepperell, not fair to say. I would love to speak to him personally and talk about it, because I played with him, actually, at WGC-Mexico. We can talk about that time that we played it in,” DeChambeau said at the time. “When you start personally attacking people on Twitter, it’s like, come on, dude. Let’s have some more, I was going to say something else, but let’s have some more balls and speak to me to my face about that.”
Koepka didn’t say anything more publicly about DeChambeau at the time, so whether or not there was something said behind the scenes or that made its way to DeChambeau through other channels, it’s unknown.
Something caused DeChambeau to confront Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, on the practice green. He told Elliott that if Koepka has something to say about his slow play, he should say it to his face.
Was standing on the putting green with Koepka’s caddie earlier when an irritated Bryson DeChambeau walked up & told him to tell his boss to make any comment about slow play “to my face”. Brooks arrived soon after, got the message & ambled over for a chat with the scientist.
— Eamon Lynch (@eamonlynch) August 11, 2019
Koepka said he found that ironic that DeChambeau didn’t go to his face to say it, but rather through his caddie, but he did not immediately go on the offensive. The two seemed to have worked something out at the time and had a private conversation on Sunday of the tournament about the brewing feud.
DeChambeau felt as though he was singled out by Koepka in his comments earlier in the year and that had snowballed into heavier criticism from multiple angles.
“It’s not just him. I know he feels singled out, especially when I’m speaking about it,” Koepka said at the time. “But it’s like I told him, I’ve mentioned his name once, and that’s it. There’s so many guys out here where it’s become an issue, and obviously him being probably the best player that’s relatively slow right now, he’s going to be on TV a lot more, so you’re going to catch a lot more of those type of instances.”
DeChambeau acknowledged the conversation and said it was productive. That the two talked about what Koepka had said and it was explained that it was a generalized comment, not meant to just single out DeChambeau or one person.
That conversation led to both golfers agreeing they should keep their comments internal, that they shouldn’t go public with criticism and should try to keep any disagreements or verbal spats in house.
“It was great. I said, ‘I think we got to start internally so we don’t have these issues come out in public and it creates a bad image for the PGA Tour,” DeChambeau said. “We never want that. So, it was great. We had a great conversation, and have a new level of respect for him.”
That conversation seemed to squash any potential issues that could move forward and they both even appeared on SiriusXM radio together with Pat Perez and Michael Collins, where DeChambeau admitted to his slow play on the greens. There was even some jovial banter between the two with DeChambeau saying Koepka would win in a fight and that, “He’d kick my ass.”
Problem solved, right? Nope.
It’s all about The Body
In January 2020, Koepka appeared in ESPN The Magazine’s The Body Issue with other athletes showing off their physique.
DeChambeau either didn’t know how livestreaming works or didn’t care, because he criticized Koepka’s body while livestreaming himself playing a video game on Twitch.
“I don’t know if his genetics even make him look good, to be honest,” DeChambeau said on video. “That Body Issue, he didn’t have any abs, I can tell you that. I got some abs.”
Bryson goes after Brooks’ physique!! pic.twitter.com/NSugaoCs1h
— Eric Patterson (@EPatGolf) January 15, 2020
That went against what Koepka and DeChambeau had agreed upon previously, to keep any issues in-house and not make any statements public, so the choice of words was strange, to say the least. Especially given that on the platform, a video can be recorded and shared on social media.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) January 16, 2020
That seemed like a light-hearted jab back at DeChambeau. Maybe DeChambeau’s criticism was made in jest, as well, but either way, we didn’t see much public bickering until July 2020, at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
The tour had just returned from its pandemic shutdown and DeChambeau was featuring his new, bulked-up body and distance off the tee. He had everyone noticing how far he was hitting the ball, but some questioning how he gained so much weight so quickly.
DeChambeau had a confrontation with a cameraman during the tournament after hitting the sand in anger in a bunker. He felt the cameraman was focusing too much on him for too long to capture his outburst. The two had a conversation.
Koepka, who was not playing in the tournament, took notice.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) July 7, 2020
Later in the month, at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, DeChambeau hit an errant tee shot near a tree and on top of a stick on the seventh hole. He called over a rules official to see if he could get relief because he believed his ball was resting on an anthill.
He was hoping for relief under the dangerous animal condition, by saying his ball was on a fire ant nest and the fire ants were potentially dangerous. Dangerous to what or whom, who knows.
He was not given relief.
During the second round of the tournament, Koepka hit a tee shot out to the left, in the rough near some trees, and joked to his caddie that he saw an ant. The discussion was picked up by cameras and microphones and, of course, went viral.
— Skratch (@Skratch) July 31, 2020
Koepka didn’t mention DeChambeau by name in the steroid tweet or his ant remark, but it can be surmised they were aimed at DeChambeau. Similar to his comment at the PGA Championship about his successful play.
He told a reporter in an interview that there’s no reason to be scientific with the numbers, that he’ll just go out and play. That might not have been targeted, but DeChambeau’s nickname is the Mad Scientist.
“I am playing so good…”
Brooks Koepka is one shot off the clubhouse lead after another impressive PGA Championship round
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) August 6, 2020
Things seemed to cool down for a while. Koepka complimented DeChambeau before the Masters in November 2020. DeChambeau was contemplating using a 48-inch driver for the tournament and Koepka said that length is always an advantage and that DeChambeau has done a good job working to hit the ball as far as he does.
One eye roll changes everything
The feud fizzled for a few months then went straight to a rolling boil in May when Koepka was being interviewed by Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis after his second round at the PGA Championship.
Koepka answered a question as the sound of DeChambeau’s spikes clanking against the cement get within Koepka’s earshot. He lost his train of thought, rolled his eyes and cussed on camera, saying, “I lost my train of thought, yeah, hearing that bulls—.”
Lewis tells Koepka they’re going to have fun with that blooper and Koepka said he wouldn’t care if it was released. Naturally, it was leaked by someone and went viral in no time.
DeChambeau saw the video and commented on an Instagram account that posted the incident, saying, “You know you can fix spike marks now.” He was seemingly referring to the metal spikes he was wearing while walking through the video.
What came next was a flurry of shots on social media as DeChambeau prepared to play in The Match, partnering with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson.
When the teams and event were announced, Koepka first tweeted at Rodgers about playing with DeChambeau.
Sorry bro @AaronRodgers12
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) May 26, 2021
Of course, DeChambeau had something to say.
@BKoepka It’s nice to be living rent free in your head!
— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) May 26, 2021
Koepka then replied again with a video of DeChambeau hitting a tee shot while a fan calls him “Brooksy.” In the video, DeChambeau is seen saying, “Whoever is calling me Brooksy needs to get out of here.” Koepka noticed.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) May 26, 2021
The initial tweet from Koepka has more than 110,000 likes. DeChambeau’s reply back has more than 28,000. Koepka’s video reply has more 46,000 likes, showing the reach of the feud online.
Trying to offer some levity, Justin Thomas replied with a GIF of Bill Hader eating popcorn while nodding his head yes. Thomas was all of us that day.
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) May 26, 2021
Mickelson tweeted at DeChambeau and Koepka, saying he felt like he was in the middle of something and should step aside. But with Phil being Phil, he added more fuel to the fire on his way out.
The fans have their say
That video tweeted by Koepka escalated the number of fans yelling “Brooksy” at DeChambeau.
It got to the point where three fans were tossed from the Memorial Tournament in June for shouting “Brooksy.” At the time, DeChambeau tried to play it off as best he could and said the chants weren’t impacting him and that the yells were flattering.
He tried his best to make it seem like it wasn’t a bother, but it didn’t stop the fans from doing it.
What probably made it even worse was that Koepka, who wasn’t playing in The Memorial, partnered with Michelob Ultra to give free beer to any fan removed from the tournament.
He started the video by saying, “What’s up guys, it’s Brooksy,” then went on to thank the fans for showing their support by yelling his name.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) June 4, 2021
DeChambeau acknowledged that he saw the video giving away free beer and tried to turn it into a positive.
“I’m happy that there’s more conversation about me, because of the PIP fund,” he said at the time.
The PIP fund is the player impact program that will split a $40 million pot between the 10 golfers that receive the highest-impact score based on social media presence and engagements. So, more mentions equals a bigger opportunity for DeChambeau to get some of that $40 million.
As the feud continued to grow, more yells of “Brooksy” happened at events. Reporters started asking if it had gotten out of hand and if it was actually bad for the game.
Koepka was asked about the feud and the leaked video from his Golf Channel interview. He responded by saying he doesn’t regret anything and that he is OK with everything that he had done up to that point.
“I think it’s good for the game. I really do,” Koepka said. “The fact that golf’s on pretty much every news outlet for about two weeks pretty consistently, I think that’s a good thing. It’s growing the game.”
Growing the game or not, it was becoming bigger than it ever had been. With the Ryder Cup approaching and the idea of the two playing on a team together, Steve Stricker went from an observer to a captain who needed to ensure his players wouldn’t let it be a distraction during the event.
“Yeah, it’s not making my job any easier, you know,” Stricker said in June. “I haven’t talked to either one of them. I will have to at some point. We’ll see where it goes from there. Hopefully, they can put their differences aside for the week, be big boys and come together as a team.”
That month, at the Palmetto Championship, Koepka addressed the idea that it could negatively impact the team.
“I mean, there’s only eight guys that are playing, four guys are sitting, whatever,” He said. “I mean, I play with one other guy. I don’t understand, if let’s say I don’t play with Bryson or Bryson doesn’t play with me, he takes care of his match, and I would take care of my match, and I don’t know how that has any effect. What you do off the golf course doesn’t have any effect on the golf course.”
No regret here
A week later, at the U.S. Open on June 17, DeChambeau saw an opportunity as Koepka was once again being interviewed by Golf Channel. The interview was set up higher than the walkway where players were going by.
DeChambeau saw the cameras and jumped in the air, waving his arms, to video-bomb Koepka’s interview in more of a quiet fashion.
— The Divot Room (@DivotRoom) June 18, 2021
Koepka didn’t notice it live and didn’t acknowledge whether he saw it afterward, either.
But Koepka was asked about the genesis of the feud. He went back to the time DeChambeau approached Elliott and told him if DeChambeau has something to say, that he should say it to his face.
“We both agreed we’d leave each other out of it and wouldn’t mention each other, just kind of let it die off, wouldn’t mention each other’s names, just go about it,” Koepka said. “So, then he decided, I guess he was going on that little, whatever, playing video games online or whatever, and brought my name up and said a few things, so now it’s fair game.”
He was referencing the fact that DeChambeau took a shot at him on his livestream and made it as public as can be, rather than keeping it in-house. Oddly enough, DeChambeau said in July that he didn’t remember what was said in the conversation.
“We just had a conversation that I really don’t know what happened, because we haven’t really bantered back and forth until now,” DeChambeau said. “So, it’s like, why is this happening now?”
At the time of the conversation, DeChambeau had praised Koepka for talking and working things out. He might not remember the context of the conversation, but previously acknowledging that it took place and what the conversation was about made it seem as though he was on the same page as Koepka at the time.
Regardless of whether he remembered the conversation, the feud had gone full-tilt and was as public as it has ever been.
Koepka digs in on social media
In the beginning of July, DeChambeau parted ways with caddie Tim Tucker before the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. Koepka took the opportunity to again throw shade and tweeted out his support for his own caddie the same day.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) July 1, 2021
DeChambeau was introspective in a media session, telling reporters that he never wanted to be famous growing up. He just wanted to be a golfer. He said he’s human, so naturally he is impacted by things that are said and situations he has been in.
He acknowledged that he hasn’t approached certain situations in the past the best way and that he didn’t set out for this feud to grow into what it is.
“I’m somebody that doesn’t necessarily like controversy. I just like doing my own thing,” he said. “Do I like showcasing something unique and different? Yeah, but I guess what comes with that is controversy, and I guess that’s something that I don’t necessarily deal the best with sometimes.”
That didn’t stop Koepka, though.
On Thursday at The Open, DeChambeau said his driver sucked in an interview after having a poor performance off the tee. He blamed it on the build of the club itself and the physics in how companies create driver heads, instead of his swing.
Koepka pounced on another opportunity.
Brooks Koepka: “I love my driver” 😂 This is content, folks.
— Cam Rogers (@MrRogers99) July 16, 2021
It’s not just the fact the Koepka says it. It’s the fact that he says it with a smile that shows you how much he’s enjoying taking shots, whether on television or on social media.
Driving into the weekend! pic.twitter.com/poSQG0mrvC
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) July 16, 2021
At that point, the clash had become somewhat one-sided in the public eye, with Koepka encouraging fans yelling his name at tournaments, tweeting jabs and saying whatever he wanted in interviews.
The captain steps in
Despite the fact that there hadn’t been much back and forth for a while, the Ryder Cup became a bigger point of emphasis in August. Would the two be able to be on the same team? Would they bicker the week of the Ryder Cup? Would it hurt the team chemistry?
Stricker had a conversation with both players and came away assured that the two would be able to quash the beef for the week and that it wouldn’t be a distraction.
“They said it’s not going to be an issue, and I believe them,” Stricker said. “I trust them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been put to bed.”
Koepka acknowledged the conversation and said he’s willing to put it aside. DeChambeau has refused post-round interviews since before the Olympics, so he hasn’t given his perspective on the feud and the Ryder Cup. But Stricker has said both are on board.
All was well until three days later at the BMW Championship. After a 6-hole playoff, in which DeChambeau lost to Patrick Cantlay, a fan said “Great job, Brooksy,” as DeChambeau was walking toward the clubhouse.
According to ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, who witnessed the incident, DeChambeau spun around and yelled, “You know what? Get the f— out,” at the fan.
Van Valkenburg said DeChambeau had been dealing with the taunts all week and weathered the storm until that moment.
While Koepka may have agreed to pause the feud, his fans had not.
That moment caused the PGA Tour to get involved, creating a rule that will expel fans for yelling “Brooksy” at DeChambeau.
Now comes the actual Ryder Cup, with the two on the same team as the U.S. tries to bounce back from a rout three years ago in Paris at the hands of the European team. Will these two players on the same team hurt the team? Will fans at Whistling Straits be divided — not by U.S. vs. Europe but by Koepka vs. DeChambeau? Stricker believes he has the players on the same page.
It’s time see if the rivalry takes a break or another chapter of the feud is required.