Which gets us to that rivalry: Bryson DeChambeau vs. Brooks Koepka. Both happen to be on this year’s U.S. team, and if ill will persists between them, that might impair efforts to instill the kind of loose, fun-loving vibe that seems to have worked so well for their opponents.
On Tuesday, in his first formal news conference in several weeks, DeChambeau made a point of asserting that he and his teammates developed “a lot of camaraderie” during a trip to Whistling Straits last week. Koepka, who has been dealing with a wrist injury, was not part of that practice session, though.
Asked Tuesday what efforts he might have made to “end the feud” with Koepka, DeChambeau replied that they have been getting along well of late.
“A lot of this social media stuff has definitely been driven by a lot of external factors, not necessarily us two,” the 2020 U.S. Open winner said. “We had some great conversations Tour Championship week when we had dinner, and then this week as well.
“I sat down and had dinner with him last night, and it was fine.”
In furtherance of that happy narrative, the U.S. team’s Twitter account posted video Tuesday of Koepka ambling over to have a brief chat with DeChambeau, both decked out in matching team apparel, at a driving range. As Koepka walks away, DeChambeau acknowledges cheers from gallery members over his ability to share an innocuous but notably non-heated moment with his longtime nemesis.
Koepka subsequently shared that post while adding this comment: “Nothing to see here, teammates talk.” He added “Go USA” in a hashtag.
One factor that could ease some potential lingering tension is the possibility that DeChambeau won’t get heckled by pro-Koepka fans, given the players’ temporary roles as teammates working to help defeat a common, non-American foe.
With some encouragement from Koepka, a handful of attendees at PGA tournaments have taken to loudly hailing DeChambeau with “Brooksie!” That behavior was condemned last month by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who said that fans risked expulsion if they taunted DeChambeau or any other player in such a “disrespectful” way.
DeChambeau told reporters Tuesday that while someone who reached his level in the sport could be expected to have “a lot of armor,” it was still the case that “we’re all humans at the end of the day.”
“Sure, there are times where it’s not comfortable,” he said, “but there’s also times where it fuels me. I think this week is going to be an amazing example of it, and it’s going to be fun to be able to have the crowd behind us and pump them up and show them what I can hopefully do and what we can do as a team, more importantly.
“I’m not going to make this about me. Again, this is about a team event,” DeChambeau continued. “I’ve got a brass chest. I’ve taken a lot of heat. But I’m okay with it, and I understand I’m in the place where I’m at, and it’s going to be that way moving forward.”
The world’s seventh-ranked player provided media members with extensive remarks a day after U.S. captain Steve Stricker told reporters that the much-publicized feud was a “nonissue” for him.
“We got together a few weeks ago; I’ve had conversations with them both. They have assured me it’s not going to be an issue,” said Stricker, who revealed that he did not anticipate DeChambeau and Koepka getting paired together this week. “I have no worries whatsoever.”
Stricker added Monday that he was assured by Koepka that the four-time major winner was healthy and “100 percent all-in on this team.” That clarification referred to comments last week in which Koepka said that playing in a team event such as the Ryder Cup could be a “demanding” change from his normal routine. He acknowledged that he might be put into a “tough” situation were he to be held partially accountable for a teammate’s poor play.
“It’s just maybe not in my DNA, the team sports thing,” Koepka said then.
For his part, DeChambeau spurred questions about how seriously he is taking the Ryder Cup when he announced he will be participating in a professional long-driving event shortly after the biennial international showdown concludes Sunday. He declared Tuesday that he has “put full-force focus” into his Ryder Cup preparations.
His training for the long-driving event might even help him at the Ryder Cup, DeChambeau said, because he has been reaching ball speeds of over 200 mph with a PGA Tour-approved driver. Last season, his average ball speed of 190.72 was good for second on the top-tier circuit, just behind Cameron Champ (190.94).
“There’s a whole list of holes [at Whistling Straits] where it’s going to be a huge advantage — I hope — if I’m hitting it in the fairway,” DeChambeau said.
As for what he has next on his agenda following his cameo among the long-ball hitters, DeChambeau hinted that it might involve a certain antagonist-turned-teammate.
“I think there may be something fun coming up here moving forward,” he said, “but won’t speak too much more on that.”
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