Hatfields vs. McCoys. City vs United. Ireland vs England. Feuds are a fact of life—a neat little feature of humanity not seen anywhere else in the animal world—but none, not even the Capulets and Montagues, can compare to Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau. Not after 2021 (and 2020 ... and 2019).
But how exactly did we get here, standing on the cusp of the most genuinely hostile Match in The Match's admittedly chummy history? What sequence of insults, insinuations, and short-lived ceasefires led us to the brink of World War Golf ? In order to answer that question, we first have to catalog the full breadth of Brooks vs. Bryson. Then, and only then, can we hope to not only understand, but heal. Let’s begin.
January 2019 - Brooks Koepka calls slow-play “embarrassing” while playing Dubai Desert Classic with Bryson
“I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it’s not that hard,” Koepka told Golf Monthly podcast’s Michael Weston at the 2019 Dubai Desert Classic. "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.”
Hmm. “Long hitter”? “Calculations”? Who could he have possibly been talking about?
Bryson eventually responded, beginning the pattern of rat-a-tat with which we are now intimately familiar. “It’s actually quite impressive that we’re able to get all that stuff done in 45 seconds." he said. "People don’t realize that it’s very difficult to do everything we do in 45 seconds.” But no one was naming names . . . yet.
August 2019 - Clandestine peace talks at the 2019 Northern Trust
Two days after going viral for a 70-yard approach shot that took him over three minutes to hit at the 2019 Northern Trust, DeChambeau approached Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliot on the range ahead of their final-round tee times and requested a tête-à-tête with Koepka. When Koepka arrived, the message was passed along and the two spoke face-to-face about their simmering cold war.
“It was actually fantastic [talking to Brooks]. I appreciate what Brooks did. I have high respect for him because he did that.” Bryson told reporters after his round. “There was one instance he said in Abu Dhabi, and he said, ‘Yeah, I said something about that, but it was in general and got blown out of proportion.'"
“It was fine,” said Koepka when asked the same question. “No issues.”
48 hours later . . .
What was a peaceful roundtable between two world golf leaders was misconstrued by the internet, however, with many believing that Bryson’s invitation for Brooks to “say it to his face” was tantamount to taking it to the parking lot. When both Koepka and DeChambeau were asked about the potential for a heavyweight title bout on Pat Perez and Michael Collins' SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show, Out of Bounds, the Tuesday after, they both laughed it off, with
DeChambeau conceding the entirely imaginary belt.
“People acted like the two of y’all were going to fight,” Collins said.
“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.”
“We do know that,” Perez said.
“He’s got that right,” Koepka said, laughing.
January 2020 - Bryson calls out Brooks' abs on Twitch, beginning the worst year in human history
While Bryson might have been the beta to Brooks’ alpha in August, things had changed. He had spent the ensuing months getting not-so-secretly yuge and by January, the protein shakes and squats had finally gone to his head. On a Fortnite Twitch steam, he violated the peace treaty, calling out Koepka’s ‘ESPN Body Issue’ abs live for the entire internet to see.
Bryson goes after Brooks’ physique!! pic.twitter.com/NSugaoCs1h— Eric Patterson (@EPatGolf) January 15, 2020
While the irony of calling out another player’s abs while playing video games was not lost on anyone, a line that could not be uncrossed had been crossed.
24 hours later . . .
Never one to let space go unrented in his head, Koepka quickly fired back.
February 2020 - Bryson DeChambeau, not Brooks Koepka, named to Fittest 50 list
While everyone was still (sort of) laughing (for now), in February the fitness wars tilted toward Team Bryson, with DeChambeau named to Sports Illustrated’s Fittest 50 list in lieu of his allegedly ab-less nemesis. DeChambeau made sure to acknowledge the “many impressive names” on the list. No such acknowledgement from Koepka would be forthcoming.
Awesome to be recognized in @SInow Fittest 50 with so many impressive names. I’m at the beginning of my journey, and it’s been a lot of hard work so thank you #SportsIllustrated. pic.twitter.com/qX3Bk7dNED— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) February 7, 2020
July 2020 - The Kenny Powers gif
Then COVID-19 hit. The PGA Tour went on hiatus and the Brooks vs. Bryson rivalry went underground. Brooks got a bad haircut and there were no comments from Twitch. Bryson continued his mission to obliterate the distinction between fat and fit and Brooks didn’t even try to keep up. For five lonely, boring months, it almost seemed like the pair had grown up. Then golf returned and with it, Bryson at his pulsing-neck-vein zenith. We wrote about him shoving Colonial in a locker during his first round back after lockdown. Then a week later, he was seen moving back on the Harbour Town range so as not to outdrive the net.
In early July, Behemoth Bryson won the Rocket Mortgage Classic by three shots, but the victory wasn’t without controversy, with DeChambeau accosting a cameraman for a full minute during a particularly fiery period of his third round. The outburst, combined with the physique and overall Bryson mediastorm, had some golf fans muttering the S-word, including Koepka, who said it all without saying anything at all.
The rivalry was back. Nature was healing.
July 2020 Pt. 2 - March of the fire ants
The Brooks-Bryson rivalry had always come in fits and starts, and the 'Eastbound & Down' gif proved to be the start of a fertile new run for Koepka, who fully rebounded from his Fittest 50 omission at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. On Thursday, Bryson DeChambeau attempted to get relief from a rules official under the provision of a “dangerous situation” due to a fire-ant hill near his lie. He was ultimately denied the ruling, but that was only the beginning of Ant-Gate.
The following day, Kopeka found himself in a similarly disadvantageous position, and, while going through his pre-shot routine, he pointed to the ground and said “look there’s an ant” to caddie Ricky Elliot. Elliot took the bait and moved in for a closer look, before Koepka issued a “nah, I’m just kidding.” They (and the rest of the world) then shared a couple of hearty belly laughs at Bryson’s expense.
It was another pick-six on the board for Team Koepka, but also proof that he was watching DeChambeau’s each and every exploit from the bushes with a set of binoculars, no matter how hard he tried to pretend like he wasn’t.
August 2020 - “There’s no reason to be scientific . . .”
While most of the educated world spent 2020 imploring their fellow humans to “listen to the science,” Koepka was humming a very different tune by the time the first major of 2020 rolled around. Speaking to SkySports after his first round at Harding Park in August, he could barely keep from cracking a smile as he discussed his well-documented approach to major golf.
“Just a major, I’ll get up for it, a little bit of confidence I guess,” Koepka said. “At the end of the day I feel good, I’m playing good. There’s no reason to be scientific with all the numbers and stuff like that on TrackMan, just go out and go play.”
"I am playing so good..."— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) August 6, 2020
Brooks Koepka is one shot off the clubhouse lead after another impressive PGA Championship round
Watch the #PGAChamp now on Sky Sports Golf or follow here: https://t.co/lCwOOLXYf1 pic.twitter.com/H4XI9yJTOt
By the rapidly devolving standards of their potshots, it was positively innocent, but we all know that high up in his laboratory of evil, The Mad Scientist was watching.
October 2020 - U.S. Open? What U.S. Open?
Unfortunately at some point that weekend, Koepka sustained a hip injury that kept him out of much of the PGA Tour’s fall schedule, including the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. It was there that DeChambeau claimed his first major championship in emphatic fashion, besting Matthew Wolff by a whopping six strokes.
When asked about Bryson’s big win at the CJ Cup a few weeks later, however, Koepka had only this to say:
“Yeah I didn’t watch a shot of it. I didn’t see anything.”
So you saw the fire ants and the cameraman and the Twitch stream and the three-minute chip, but you didn’t see the U.S. Open? The cracks were forming . . .
October 2020 - The Jena Sims Q&A
By the end of October, traffic on the Brooks-Bryson Memorial Highway was flowing in a single direction. Not a peep of Brooks-directed content had come out of the DeChambeau camp since at least February. Not one to let a good hatchet get buried, however, Koepka kept at it, joining his fiancee Jena Sims for a live Instagram Q&A in late October. There he touched on everything from hoodies to partying in Vegas after his first major, but surprisingly Bryson didn’t come up until the bitter end, when a viewer lamented, "after watching all this, I'm sad no one asked about Bryson.”
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As it turns out, plenty of people did, but Brooks, merging onto the high road with the windows down and no turn signal, kept his reply short and to the point.
"Yeah, there was a lot of them [questions about Bryson], I just chose not to talk about it," he said. "If you've got nothing nice to say, don't say it at all."
Despite the heavy implication that he still had nothing nice to say about the Kangol Killer, the beef appeared to be well and truly squashed.
May 2021 - The spikes heard round the world
Then came the PGA Championship, when, with the spark of his metal spikes on the cart path, DeChambeau lit the fuse that detonated the bomb that blew the lid off the enitre feud. With a mere eyeroll Brooks Koepka elevated to his beef with Bryson from internal cat fight to global phenomenon, kicking off what has since become known as The Long Summer.
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June 2021 - Brooksy-gate
A few weeks later, things came to a head at the Memorial Tournament, where fans got in on the fun, stalking Bryson around Muirfield Village shouting "Brooksy" at the embattled brute without rest or repose. Instead of asking his troops to stand down, Koepka offered them free beer. Bryson replied by tagging in the PGA Tour, who in turn minted a new rule that essentially said "if we hear even so much as an 'Ooksy,' you're out of here." Not since Augusta National banning Dilly Dilly had golf seen such controversy.
Later June 2021 - This. Is. Sportscenter
With both Brooks and Brooksy Bryson in the field at the Travelers Championship, Koepka popped up as a guest on Sportscenter. The topic at hand was his war of words with DeChambeau, and he didn't hold back. "It’s been fun, I’ve gotten a good response from a bunch of the guys on tour, from everybody from the tour. It’s been something I think everybody’s enjoyed," he said when asked about the response from his peers. "There's not much to talk about ... this whole thing started basically because of him, so I'll leave it at that," he replied when asked if he would be willing to make peace with DeChambeau over a beer. A ceasefire never seemed so far away.
September 2021 - Brothers, patriots
The feud is over! pic.twitter.com/q3bXLq3L7V— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) September 26, 2021
Time heals all wounds, however. And if not time, then at the very least a common enemy. As the summer wound down and major season wrapped up, all eyes turned to a pivotal Ryder Cup for Team USA. One of the foremost questions in every golf fan's mind was how Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, mortal enemies, would function as teammates. They mostly steered clear of the topic throughout the week, but as the U.S. team roared to a runaway victory over their own nemesis, the ice began to melt, slowly at first and then in teeming rivers as the two wrapped each other in warm embrace. Brothers? Perhaps not. But patriots? Absolutely.
October 2021 - A most inevitable match
No sooner had the Ryder Cup hangovers cleared, Camp Koepka and Fort Bryson confirmed what we had all been waiting for since DeChambeau first insulted Koepka's abs on a video game stream nearly 18 months before, announcing a 12-hole, winner-take-all edition of The Match set for Thanksgiving weekend. The feud had officially gone mainstream.
November 2021 - The Annexation of Poland
The general expectation was that The Match would close the book on Golf's Greatest Feud—a televised peace accord masquerading as a competitive sporting event. As it turns out, however, there may yet be another chapter to write. On Wednesday, Bryson fired the first shot of The Match, but in typical Bryson fashion, he may have come in way, WAY too hot ...
This was almost certianly orchestrated trash talk between the two ahead of their big showdown, but Bryson took his inch and stretched into five miles, ripping Kopeka's two recent missed cuts with clumsy brutality. Did Koepka take genuine offense, retaliating by saying their Ryder Cup hug was "forced"? Will the feud rise from its own ashes like a glorious, spiteful phoenix once more? Only time, and Black Friday, will tell.