Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka says his feud with reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is “good for the game” and won’t be a US Ryder Cup team distraction.
Koepka, who shared second in last month’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, returns to South Carolina for this week’s PGA Palmetto Championship at Congaree, which replaced the Canadian Open that was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The one-off event is the last PGA Tour stop before next week’s US Open at Torrey Pines, where DeChambeau will defend his first major title.
A video of Koepka being annoyed as DeChambeau walked past at the PGA Championship went viral and has sparked a social media exchange that included Koepka offering free beer for hecklers of DeChambeau tossed out of last week’s Memorial tournament.
The attention to both golfers will help them in quest of a new pool of bonus money for popularity, but Koepka also sees the over-the-top rivalry as a boost to golf.
“I think it’s good for the game. I really do,” Koepka said Wednesday. “The fact that golf’s on pretty much every news outlet for about two weeks pretty consistently, I think that’s a good thing. It’s growing the game.
“I get the traditionalists who don’t agree with it. I understand that, but I think to grow the game you’ve got to reach out to the younger generation… it’s reaching out to a whole bunch of people. It’s getting golf in front of people.”
It could also put them center stage at the Ryder Cup, with DeChambeau ranked second in points and Koepka fifth. Six players will qualify on points and US captain Steve Stricker will have six captain’s choices.
But Stricker might also have a problem with poisioned chemistry if DeChambeau and Koepka bring a spat into the US locker room when the American team hosts holders Europe next September at Whistling Straits.
“I don’t see why it would,” Koepka said of the possibility of damaging US team chemsitry.
“There’s only eight guys that are playing, four guys are sitting, whatever. I mean, I play with one other guy. Let’s say I don’t play with Bryson or Bryson doesn’t play with me, he takes care of his match, and I would take care of my match, and I don’t know how that has any effect.
“What you do off the golf course doesn’t have any effect on the golf course.”
Koepka played on winning US sides at the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2017 Presidents Cup and was on the 2018 US Ryder Cup squad that lost in France, so he knows just how much time he and DeChambeau might be spending around each other at the Ryder Cup.
“Everyone is just kind of around each other, between dinners, all the different things we’ve got going,” Koepka said. “Yeah, we’re around each other.”
– ‘It was just so loud’ –
Koepka said he didn’t mind the attention his feelings about DeChambeau have gotten since a one-off moment last month.
“It doesn’t bother me, honestly,” he said. “It’s nothing I’m terribly upset about.
“He didn’t say anything to me. I was right in front of the microphones where you guys all were, and I don’t want to say he was like screaming — he was saying something about how he hit a perfect shot and it shouldn’t have been there — and it was just very, very loud.
“Hey, look, we’re all kind of in this area, just tone it down, and it was just so loud. Then I think he realized that he had gotten right behind me, and he toned it down a little bit.”