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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau Have a Beef. Or Do They?

In a game in which players are rebuked for sneezing during an opponent’s backswing and chided for mismatched clothing, trash talking, as someone in golf might say, is not par for the course.

But social media, along with viral video, has barged into the genteel world of professional golf. In this mild-mannered sport, bad blood was recently generated by a pair of golf spikes, an extended eye roll and a heavy sigh.

The protagonists were the reigning United States Open champion, Bryson DeChambeau, who became a lightning rod when he added 40 pounds of muscle and began overpowering golf courses last year, and Brooks Koepka, the winner of four major golf titles and another hulking, new-age player.

The two have been playfully sniping at each other since 2019. Koepka, 31, has said DeChambeau plays too slowly. DeChambeau, 27, has mocked Koepka’s abs.

On Monday a leaked video showed Koepka becoming unnerved by DeChambeau during the taping of a television interview last weekend at the P.G.A. Championship, where Koepka finished tied for second and DeChambeau tied for 38th.

In the clip, Koepka begins answering a question as DeChambeau noisily walks behind him, his metal golf spikes clattering on the pavement. Koepka rolls his eyes and stops the interview because he has lost his train of thought. He then denigrates the distraction, and perhaps DeChambeau, using salty terms.

The video, which was viewed more than 10 million times before it was removed because of a copyright violation, is an amusing window into how colleagues can get on each other’s nerves. When they are multimillionaire pro golfers, things become especially funny.

It was initially believed that DeChambeau had said something as he passed, but nothing was discernible on the video.

Some research, however, has revealed a distinct Koepka opinion on cacophonous golf cleats, expressed during an appearance on a Barstool Sports podcast, “Pardon My Take,” in 2019.

Koepka was asked why he wears cleats.

“I don’t wear spikes,” he said, adding: “Guys wear metal ones, I have no idea why. I think it’s just to give the click-clack when they’re walking over concrete.”

It was suggested to Koepka that golfers do that simply to seem athletic.

“Exactly, I don’t think you’re far off there at all,” Koepka responded.

Aha! So Koepka was doing a national television interview, and along came his nemesis click-clacking in the background, trying to appear athletic.

Whatever the genesis of the video, it — to borrow a golf term — reverberated like a shank. It became a meme for any subject, sports or otherwise.

On Monday, DeChambeau hit the gym with a flex of his own.

Things calmed down until Wednesday, when a celebrity charity golf match was announced — DeChambeau teamed with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a duel against Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the P.G.A. Championship.

Brady immediately stirred the pot anew on Twitter with a screen shot from the Koepka video, at a point when he is mid-eye roll, his lids shut. Brady added these words: “Aaron realizing he has to spend the whole day with Bryson.”

Then came another tweet, this one referencing the Packers’ ill-fated decision to kick a late field goal in their home playoff loss to Brady’s Buccaneers.

Koepka has no role in the charity match, but he could not sit out the moment, or the chance to troll DeChambeau, Rodgers’s partner. Koepka tweeted, “Sorry bro @AaronRodgers12.”

Although Mickelson has no beef with either man, and is a frequent practice-round partner with DeChambeau, the dust-up was too tempting to ignore.

“I feel like I’m in the middle of something and should step aside. (Except they want the CURRENT PGA champ),” Mickelson tweeted.

In an example of how much social media has accelerated serious arguments — and meaningless sports tiffs — DeChambeau fired back directly at Koepka: “It’s nice to be living rent free in your head.”

And so it went for much of the day, with Koepka tweeting a video of DeChambeau teeing off in a practice round last week, after which a fan shouted, “All right, Brooks-y.” That caused DeChambeau to snap, “Whoever is calling me Brooks-y needs to get out of here.”

Cue impish snickering, because it seemed like a setup.

There is only one appropriate next phase in the Bryson-Brooks social media tussle.

The first round of the U.S. Open is three weeks away. The United States Golf Association, which conducts the event, is a venerable organization that is nonetheless eager to embrace a growing younger golf audience. The U.S.G.A. has great latitude when it comes to the composition of playing groups in the opening rounds, and it often puts major champions together to heighten audience interest.

If there is any sense of justice, or sense of humor, in the hallowed corridors of the U.S.G.A., DeChambeau and Koepka will play together on June 17.

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