The squabble between the great golfer Brooks Koepka and the prominent golfer Bryson DeChambeau entered Day 23 on Tuesday, and it showed how a squabble can find new paradigms once it reaches Day 23. This one has entered the it’s-good-for-the-game realm.
“It’s bringing new eyeballs,” Koepka 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.”
This one began as a hidden tempest in a heavy frenzy May 23, as the PGA Championship ended across the country on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, where Phil Mickelson won, pandemic-pent-up fans rushed the 18th fairway and Koepka finished in a tie for second and spoke to the Golf Channel. He found his train of thought making a detour because DeChambeau entered Koepka’s earshot, baying loudly about some perfect shot that wound up imperfect, as Koepka recalled it thereafter. Koepka’s reaction did indicate perhaps a more general disdain.
The video sneaked its way into the outer universe, and golf was about to get a fetching respite from its usual heavy doses of gentlemanliness both genuine and manufactured, and from its recent paucity of rivalries. From that point have come spectacles such as Koepka offering beer to any fans at the Memorial who suffered the consequences from joshing DeChambeau with cries of “Brooksie,” and Koepka tweeting condolences to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for getting paired with DeChambeau in one of those starry matches (with Mickelson and Tom Brady).
“Sorry bro,” went his succinct tweet of May 26.
The major score in this highbrow huff stands at Koepka at four major titles at 31, with DeChambeau at one major title at 27, and the two of them with three of the past four U.S. Open titles, DeChambeau’s the most recent, in September. The minor score — who is the better needler? — has ratified Koepka’s status as a person who walks into every room with a quiet but abiding self-assuredness, always a sturdy posture for effective needling. In the key statistic of not taking oneself too seriously, he does seem to have an edge.
On Tuesday, DeChambeau, trying to stay afloat, offered this one: “I think it’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.” And this one: “Shoot, to be honest, people saying Brooksie’s name out there, I love it. I think that’s hilarious.” And this one: “He’s older than me, and he’s won more majors than me. Hey, I’ve got something to look up to.”
The whole thing has blossomed into a study of philosophy and tee times. It may have found its highest note to date when Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, said Tuesday: “I don’t know if they texted each other on the side and possibly went in agreement, ‘Let’s play this thing up for Player Impact Program.’ That was kind of one of my thoughts.” Thereby did the idea spring to life of a conspiracy to commit conflict to coax more eyeballs, a scenario as old as human life.
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open champion, offered: “We’ve certainly talked about it like other people. So it’s chatter. I don’t know. I don’t really feel like — I’m not really sure. I don’t really know how it all started. I don’t know where they’re at now. I don’t know the severity. I don’t think either one — 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.”
Or, as Simpson put it on behalf of much of dimple-brained humanity, “It would be fun to see them duel it out in a tournament here coming up, head-to-head on Sunday.”
Head-to-head Thursday and Friday won’t happen, as Spieth mentioned, because the U.S. Golf Association opted for austerity and stationed Koepka with Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa at 7:29 a.m. Pacific time Thursday on No. 10 to start, with DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama and Tyler Strafaci teeing off on No. 1 at 1:14 p.m.
Some engaged in tee-time disagreement after that — a reminder that there’s no disagreement like tee-time disagreement — and one of the nicest men in golf weighed in some displeasure on Golf Channel. “It doesn’t make me happy when I see these guys going back and forth on social media,” Steve Stricker said, but he said that partly as captain of the U.S. team for this year’s Ryder Cup, speaking of squabbles.
“I think they’re competitors,” Simpson said, “and I think the media doesn’t see the competitiveness come out in us as much as maybe you guys need to. We all want to beat each other every week of the year, except the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. ... I think they’re just living it out a little more in their words than maybe keeping it inside. I think it’s fun. 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.”
If Day 28 were to convene Sunday, there’s no telling how rich the benefits.
More from The Post: