Sports | June 16, 2021 1:43 pm

USGA’s Refusal to Pair Brooks Koepka With Bryson DeChambeau Is a Big Mistake

Golf fans wanted to watch the beefing pair play together in the first two rounds of this week's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau in Abu Dhabi in 2020.
Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau in Abu Dhabi in 2020.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty

After losing its most popular and marketable player indefinitely and possibly forever due to a car accident, pro golf has been looking for someone to fill the void left by Tiger Woods.

While neither is half the golfer or the compelling figure that Woods is, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau (with a little help from Phil Mickelson) have been doing a good job keeping golf interesting by taking shots at one another via the media and sniping on social media.

Whether its contrived or being done for the sake of padding both players’ pockets (or not), the Koepka-DeChambeau beef is good for golf and the USGA’s decision not to pair the two players together for the first two rounds of this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines is a massive mistake. That pugnacious pairing is something fairway fans want to see.

A report that DeChambeau, who won the last U.S. Open in October at Winged Foot, was asked about playing with Koepka but turned down the offer to pair with the 2017 and ’18. U.S. Open Winner (Erin Hills and Shinnecock Hills) was rebuffed by DeChambeau’s agent; a USGA official also told ESPN that DeChambeau wasn’t asked about playing with Koepka.

“I would be OK with that, but there was never really anything that went through me,” DeChambeau said.

If that’s accurate or not is irrelevant. The USGA shouldn’t have asked DeChambeau or Koepka about playing together; the organization should have just paired them up and let the chip shots (and cheap shots) fall where they may.

As Koepka himself pointed out, it’s a matchup that fans, even casual ones, want to see.

“I don’t know if I’d call it conflict,” Koepka said Tuesday. “We just don’t like each other … It’s bringing new eyeballs. It’s pretty much been on every news channel. Pretty much everything you look at online, it’s got this in the headline or it’s up there as a big news story. To me, that’s growing the game. You’re putting it in front of eyeballs, you’re putting it in front of people who probably don’t normally look at golf, don’t play it, and it might get them involved.”

It may or may not get more non-golfers involved in playing the game, but the Koepka-DeChambeau kerfuffle will get people to tune in to watch them play. If both show as well at the U.S. Open as they have in the past, there’s always the chance they’ll be forced to play together on Sunday in what would certainly qualify as must-see TV. But the USGA had the chance to guarantee itself some must-watch material by putting Koepka and DeChambeau together for the first two days of the tourney and it didn’t do it. That’s a mistake that’s as massive as Koepka’s ego and as far-reaching as one of DeChambeau’s drives.