D'ANGELO: Unfriendly rivalry between two of golf's top stars is just what the sport needs

TOM D’ANGELO
Palm Beach Post (TNS)
Brooks Koepka
Bryson DeChambeau

Brooks Koepka may have been unhappy over his putting during the PGA Championship.

He surely was disappointed in the fans who overwhelmed security to make his trek up the 18th fairway an adventure on Sunday.

But Koepka felt all that and more for Byson DeChambeau after Friday’s second round.

The look on Koepka’s face and disgust in his voice while muttering a few expletives after DeChambeau interrupted an interview said all you need to know about their relationship.

In the leaked video, Koepka was talking to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis about his poor putting when DeChambeau walked by and chimed in.

“I just felt it difficult to read, you sometimes …,” Koepka said before stopping. He rolled his eyes and then lost his concentration.

DeChambeau just appeared in the background and part of what he said was clear: “Keep it on the line.”

After his initial reaction, Koepka tried to continue before shaking his head again. “I (expletive) lost … I lost my train of thought. Yeah, hearing that bulls—t,” he said.

Clearly upset, he added another expletive before Lewis said, “Alright, we’re starting over,” before telling Koepka how much the crew would enjoy that.

“I honestly wouldn’t even care,” Koepka said.

The feud: The Koepka-DeChambeau feud started three years ago and it appears to be simmering. Could this bring it to a full boil?

These are two proud, intense competitors, though very much opposites in personality. DeChambeau is the more popular on Tour and clearly the more outgoing. He has become a showman this season since bulking up last summer to add length to his game.

DeChambeau loves the energy and lets the fans know it, the best example his reaction at Bay Hill this year when his drive on the 555-yard, par-5 sixth hole cleared the lake and traveled 370 yards. He acknowledged the roars by thrusting his arms into the air.

Koepka, meanwhile, is not among the fan favorites. One spectator at the first tee box before Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship implored Mickelson to "not screw it up" because "we would not want to see Brooks win."

Taking a much more businesslike, serious, me-against-the-world approach to his game, Koepka does not interact with fans as much as most of the Tour’s stars. Koepka, though very serious and emotionless, can be honest and give thoughtful answers during interview sessions.

This week, Koepka has been criticized, unfairly, for his comments on the fans' behavior Sunday. His issue when complaining about the out-of-control scene was safety and not the juiced crowd trying to get a closer look at eventual champion Phil Mickelson. He said it was "cool for Phil," but not for him after his knee was “dinged” a few times.

Rivalry would help: This may not be Jack vs. Arnie or Tiger vs. Phil when it comes to royalty or prestige, but it’s getting to be a lot more fun in a game that could use a good old-fashioned rivalry to spice up things.

While both have won eight times on Tour, Koepka clearly has the upper hand when it comes to majors with four to DeChambeau’s one, and 13 top 10s to Bryson’s two.

This feud dates back to when Koepka started voicing his frustration over pace of play. Others were as annoyed, but none were as outspoken about it as Koepka. And DeChambeau took offense. After all, he was the poster child of slow play, especially after a video of him taking more than two-minutes to hit an 8-foot putt.

“I mentioned his name once. I don't think I've come at him. I just talked about slow play, and obviously he feels I'm talking about him every time,” Koepka said at the 2019 Northern Trust.

DeChambeau told Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, that Koepka should speak to him directly if he had a problem with his pace of play, according to reports.

The two then had a talk and said the air was cleared.

Apparently not.

Last summer, as DeChambeau was pumping iron to reshape his body in pursuit of the 400-yard drive, he took a shot at Koepka’s physique on a video-game live stream, poking fun at Koepka’s abs.

One day later Koepka fired back with a tweet showing his four majors trophies.

Could get fun: This could get to be fun.

The two certainly will be in the U.S. Open field in June at Torrey Pines, but three events will be played before then. While neither is playing in the Charles Schwab Challenge this week, DeChambeau is entered in the Memorial, Jack Nicklaus’ tournament held in Dublin, Ohio, starting June 3. It is unknown if Koepka will play the Memorial.

Now, the Tour needs to do the right thing and put them in the same grouping at their next tournament.