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Golf means Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau’s rivalry will always lack punch

Jibes thrown ahead of Las Vegas showdown are not exactly those heard before a title fight

Golf has borrowed a little from boxing this week. But it didn’t really pull it off for the Thanksgiving turkey shoot in Las Vegas. It just doesn’t have the spleen for trash talk, proper garbage insults, disrespectful eyeballing.

For many people, especially golfers, that will be seen as the sport dodging a bullet.

Still, it’s an interesting departure in Vegas and for the fifth edition of The Match, stone cold sober golf is selling us Ryder Cup huggers Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka as the “baddest ass” rivalry in the sport.

Vegas and the lights, it is a head-to-head over 12 holes of desert just like any heavyweight championship bout in the MGM. They have got that bit right. Sin City, high rollers and casinos, but can anyone really expect to see hackles raised as high as Pádraig Harrington paired with Sergio on a slow day.


During the final round at the BMW Championship earlier this year, DeChambeau competed in a six-hole playoff against Patrick Cantlay. Fans continued to shout “Brooksy” at him, which is as rough as it gets. Brooksy being Koepka, his purported arch rival.

Finally DeChambeau had enough. “You know what? Get the f**k out,” he said to one of the fans who called “Brooksy” once too often. This caused the PGA Tour to go into Defcon 1 with commissioner Jay Monahan announcing that any fans using “Brooksy” at events could possibly be barred from attending future tournaments.

That’s right. You heard it correctly. The carefully nurtured spat generated an on-course expletive from the golfer towards a fan, so the PGA Tour threatened to sanction the fan for any future “Brooksy” shouts.

Jack hammers and pliers

An old promotional shoot for the 2020 HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi, with beef cake Koepka holding a dumbbell and boffin DeChambeau in lab glasses and a science flask in one hand, suggests that golf is a little wet for them to go to town on each other with jack hammers and pliers as contact sports tend to do.

It would be like forcing To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch and Father Flanagan from Boys Town into a vessel-busting face off.

“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand, it’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway,” growls Atticus.

“There are no bad boys, There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking,” hisses Father Flanagan.

Most golfers haven’t gone through the method school of life that many boxers have, in order to carry it off, the natural aggression, the cutting insults and occasionally the odd press conference dust up and flying chairs.

And can’t think of any pre-match golf press conferences where both participants leave with the others’ DNA under their fingernails.

All that etiquette and manners and calling fouls on themselves, all the dress codes and the blizzard of rules and relative splendour of the golf clubs they play in, it can’t all just be undone.

“Tell your wife to screw you the morning of the fight so you don’t take a dive the way you did against Hopkins, f****t,” said Ricardo Mayorga to Felix Trindad.

Not sure what all that means, exactly. But it sounds offensive and it is offensive to Trinidad, women and the LGBT community. It is gratuitously, deliberately and tastelessly offensive. It is definitely not “Brooksy”.

“I’m just ferocious. I want your heart. I wanna eat his children,” said Mike Tyson calling out Lennox Lewis. He wasn’t wearing a lab coat. He was wearing a giant tribal tattoo on the left side of his face.

Really, you wonder what the “feud timeline” countdown is all about apart from bigging up the event from which two charities will receive whatever large pot each golfer wins. The seventh hole, longest drive gets $200,000 - that sort of righteous thing.

Bragging rights are up for grabs. But maybe that’s not all that is baked into the cake. Both players have been jawing in public all season and maybe for the sake of notoriety. Surely it could not be that the “feud” is down to this year’s golf’s innovation, the Player Impact Program (PIP).

Move the needle

The PIP is a $40 million pool distributed to PGA Tour players who are ranked by a number of different factors, including how popular they are on social media and the number of internet searches they generate.

The $40m in the kitty will be split 10 ways to “recognise and reward players who positively move the needle” by generating coverage for the sport. The biggest share, $8m, will go to the MVP. That’s equal to winning four British Opens.

The sub-narrative is an insurgent Saudi-backed Super Golf League which is trying to set up a rival multi-million dollar global tour. They are offering guaranteed money to compete on a grand prix style circuit, their target players being the likes of Koepka and DeChambeau.

Giving more money to those who don’t need it has been golf’s castiron winning formula from the FedEx golden calf, which pays more money to those who have already earned the most, to faux spats that might generate “edge” and Google searches.

You might feel aggrieved if you are ever tossed from a future PGA event for screaming a booze-fuelled ‘Brooksy’ at DeChambeau and wrecking his buzz.

But, feel comforted you are in a safe space. It is golf not trying to be anything other than what it is.