Finally paired at a major, Koepka and DeChambeau play nice and play well at PGA
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau insist they ended their beef long ago.
They've hugged it out. They've made their money. They've moved on. They're at different points in their careers now. Different parts of their lives.
As if to prove it once and for all, Koepka and DeChambeau spent five soggy hours at Oak Hill on Saturday quietly and professionally going about their business, largely ignoring catcalls from a gallery half-heartedly attempting to re-ignite the duo's petty if entertaining feud in which the vast majority of shots weren’t traded on the course but over social media.
At the first tee, there were boos that felt more of the “New York being New York” variety than personal when two of the highest-profile players to bolt the PGA Tour for fledgling Saudi-backed LIV Golf were introduced.
After nearly every shot there were shouts of “Brooksy," a chant designed to unsettle DeChambeau that became so ubiquitous in 2021 that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan vaguely lamented "we have gotten away from the very civility and respect that are hallmarks to our great game.”
That civility was on full display as Koepka put together a 4-under 66 that vaulted him into the 54-hole lead at 6 under, with DeChambeau three back after a 70.
Koepka, who once trolled DeChambeau for his slow play, waited patiently during DeChambeau's methodical pre-shot checklist. DeChambeau politely asked for permission to hit from the fairway on the 10th while Koepka sought a ruling from an official after his tee shot sailed into some trampled-down rough.
There were no fireworks. No rolled eyes. No body language suggesting they'd rather be somewhere — anywhere — else. Just two guys trying to reclaim their spot among the best in the world, albeit in stylistically different ways.
“I think we have a common goal, growth of the game,” DeChambeau said. “We have franchises to focus on now and also good golf to play.”
Two good days at Oak Hill put them in the same group at a major since the 2016 Masters, when they tied for 21st. They were essentially kids then. Not so much anymore. They've won majors. They've had their careers sidetracked by injuries and inconsistency.
There is so much at stake for them personally this weekend, the thought of restarting the kind of back-and-forth typically found in high school hallways didn't even occur to them.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t pay too much attention to who I’m playing with,” Koepka said. “I don’t talk a lot. I’m more focused on what I’ve got to do. Especially today with the rain, trying to stay dry, there’s a lot more other things to have to worry about.”
Koepka came to the East Course smarting after a final-round collapse cost him a green jacket at Augusta National. DeChambeau, meanwhile, arrived in Western New York looking decidedly slimmer from the bulked-up version that won the 2020 U.S. Open, a body type that of late led to diminishing returns.
DeChambeau began the week having registered just two top 10s since joining LIV and its 48-man fields. He missed the cut at the Masters, finding himself farther and farther away from the conversation surrounding the game he briefly dominated.
It's been that way for both players since they joined LIV, a decision that padded their bank accounts but also essentially robbed them of their relevance outside of the majors while LIV tries to gain a following.
On that front, there may be hope. One fan yelled “all right, Crushers” — the four-man LIV team DeChambeau leads — as he made his way off the third green. The comment went unacknowledged, though not unheard.
While the 28-year-old DeChambeau insists he's a more mature player than he was during his driving cap-and-knickers-wearing rise, he's not deaf. The boos that came from the grandstand at the first tee — as impersonal as they probably were — did not go unnoticed.
“It’s New York, and I expect it here, I appreciate the fans, them doing that to me,” he said. “It’s like, ‘OK, cool, no problem.’ I’ve got no problem, either way."
While Koepka and DeChambeau won't play together on Sunday, they won't have to look far to keep tabs on one another. DeChambeau will join Corey Conners in the penultimate group. Koepka, pursuing his third Wanamaker Trophy, goes off last with Viktor Hovland.
It will mark the first time DeChambeau and Koepka will be in close proximity to each other with a major on the line. And they'll do it without the subplot of whether they're friends or enemies or somewhere in between.
It'll be just about the golf and who's winning on the leaderboard, the way real rivalries — and not those found on Twitter — are born.
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