Bryson DeChambeau vs. Brooks Koepka: How did their feud get started?
When most golf fans think of the ongoing feud between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, one specific image comes to mind: That of Koepka mid-interview at the 2021 PGA Championship, suddenly pausing to give an emphatic eye-roll as DeChambeau walks past him in the background.
That was the video that launched 1,000 tweets; it may also have launched this week’s Match between the two players. But the story goes back much further. The beef began more than two years earlier, and it began, like all great rivalries, with something trivial.
Bryson DeChambeau vs. Brooks Koepka: The origin story
The year was 2019. DeChambeau was playing the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. After one round, the European Tour tweeted a clip of DeChambeau and caddie Tim Tucker going through a series of calculations involving air density and runout yardage as they calculated distance to the hole. The idea behind the clip was to demonstrate the complexity of his process — but much of the reaction had more to do with the fact that it took DeChambeau 90 seconds to hit a wedge shot.
“I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, or a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball — it’s not that hard,” Koepka said. “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. Obviously if you’re the first guy you might take 10 extra seconds, but it doesn’t take that long to hit the ball, especially if it’s not blowing 30.”
He added that he’d like to see pace of play policies enforced more strictly.
“Guys are already so slow it’s kind of embarrassing. I just don’t get why you enforce some things and don’t enforce others.”
DeChambeau responded the following week, defending his pre-shot routine. “People don’t realize that it’s very difficult to do everything we do in 45 seconds. I think that anybody that has an issue with it, I understand, but we’re playing for our livelihoods out here, and this is what we want to do. If we want to provide the best entertainment for you, it’s part of our process, or it’s part of my process, at least.”
And so the back-and-forth began. The two played together at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but didn’t come into open conflict again until the FedEx Cup Playoffs began that August. Another video of DeChambeau went viral, this time of an approach shot and then a putt each taking multiple minutes. Eddie Pepperell was among those pros who chimed in on social media, while several others spoke out against slow play.
Koepka was again among the pros to speak out against slow play, and before their final-round tee times a frustrated DeChambeau confronted Koepka’s caddie on the putting green, requesting an audience with his boss.
Koepka eventually spoke with DeChambeau, the two spoke further after their rounds and they reached a sort of detente.
“It’s not just him. I know he feels singled out, especially when I’m speaking about [slow play],” Koepka said. “But it’s like I told him, I’ve mentioned his name once, and that’s it.”
DeChambeau said he appreciated the conversation.
“It was actually fantastic; I appreciate what Brooks did,” he said.
It seemed the pair had buried the hatchet completely when they made a joint appearance on SiriusXM later that week, with DeChambeau (pre-bulk) pointing out that he’d have no interest in beef with Koepka.
“Let’s be honest, we know who would win that fight and it’s not me,” DeChambeau said. “Let me tell you right now — he’d kick my ass.”
Koepka agreed. “You’ve got that right.”
All was good. The two even posed for some jock-nerd photos together in Abu Dhabi on the anniversary of the original beef.
But something was still simmering. Our own Jessica Marksbury has laid out the rest of the story in great detail here, so let’s move quickly through the next few steps.
First DeChambeau said Koepka had bad abs.
Then Koepka pointed out he had more trophies.
There was an ants episode, and a couple veiled digs. But mostly there was public silence. Until the video leaked. The video. It came from an interview after the third round at the PGA Championship, Koepka on screen and DeChambeau walking through the background, and It’s now mostly been scrubbed from the internet. Still, this screenshot should jog your memory:
DeChambeau’s voice was semi-audible in the video, but it was tough to hear what he said with any certainty. It had been clear from the broadcast that he was frustrated with his finish; he felt like he’d hit it well coming home but that his score hadn’t reflected it. His very presence seemed to throw off Koepka.
“Christ,” Koepka said in the video, breaking off mid-answer.
“I lost my train of thought,” he adds. He sprinkled in some expletives.
Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis and Koepka paused the interview and prep for a second take, laughing. “We’re going to enjoy that in the TV compound,” Lewis says. Koepka shrugs.
“I honestly wouldn’t even care.”
How did the video leak? That’s the subject of another investigation you can read here. But it changed the landscape of the relationship. You likely remember much of what followed:
A back-and-forth on Twitter after Aaron Rodgers and DeChambeau were announced as a pairing in this summer’s Match:
Then fans started getting involved, calling DeChambeau “Brooksy” at tournaments.
Then those fans started getting kicked out, though not without the promise of a free beer.
There were a few more episodes, but perhaps the most revealing moment came at the 2021 Open Championship, when Koepka went back to the feud’s origins to explain what, exactly, had set him off.
Koepka clarified: “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. 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.”
In other words, there’s no secret beef. If you take Koepka at his word, it all comes back to that original back-and-forth. And despite the hug-heard-’round-the-world at the Ryder Cup, neither says there has been any true resolution.
“It was definitely a little forced,” DeChambeau told reporters on a conference call for The Match. Koepka added: “I wouldn’t put much on a forced hug.”
The next chapter comes Friday in Las Vegas.