US Open serves up major championship with a side of ‘beef’

Jun 16, 2021, 12:26 PM | Updated: Jun 17, 2021, 12:38 am

Fans who worry golf’s image could be tarnished by the spitting match between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau probably think figure skating is too rough. For the rest of us, nothing goes down better with a major championship on the menu than a side of beef.

“I don’t know if I’d call it a conflict,” Koepka, the 2017 and 2018 champion, told reporters ahead of the U.S. Open. “We don’t like each other. There’s plenty of people you guys don’t like. I don’t see any difference.”

“It doesn’t matter to me what goes on,” DeChambeau, the 2020 champion, lobbed back. “It makes no difference to me.”

Alas, a collision is not in the cards for Thursday’s opening round over Torrey Pines’ toughened-up South course. Nor the second for that matter. In the meantime, fans shouldn’t lack for entertainment.

Among the other storylines fighting for a spot on the marquee: Local hero Phil Mickelson, 51 and coming off a PGA Championship win just last month, seeking the one major title that would complete his career Grand Slam … Jon Rahm, plucked from the lead at the Memorial after a positive COVID-19 test less than two weeks ago … Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas — aging former “young guns” seeking to burnish their major championship credentials … and a familiar cast of hopefuls still chasing their first big win — Xander Schauffle, Tony Finau, and Patrick Cantlay.

In keeping with U.S. Golf Association tradition, DeChambeau, as defending champion, will play Rounds 1 and 2 alongside Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci. Koepka goes off with the fellow former PGA champions Collin Morikawa and Thomas.

But if Koepka and DeChambeau do wind up playing together on the weekend, chances are good it will be somewhere near the top of the leaderboard. The prospect of two of the game’s biggest hitters going mano-a-mano — not really; it’s still golf — was so intriguing that fellow pro and 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland practically volunteered for the third spot in the group.

Woodland spoke up after a rumor made the rounds that the USGA was considering launching a new tradition — or simply trying to make a fast buck — by pairing the last three U.S. Open winners for the first two rounds.

“No, I wasn’t approached by the USGA at all,” Woodland said. “I think it would have been great. … The energy in that group would have been amazing.

“I would have instigated and tried to start fights or whatever I could have done.”

Strange as it sounds, that wasn’t the most outlandish response to a possible Koepka-DeChambeau pairing. Fellow PGA Tour player Webb Simpson, who wound up in the press conference room sandwiched between appearances by the two heavyweights, assessed the rivalry this way:

“We all want to beat each other every week of the year. I think they’re just living it out a little more in their words than maybe keep it inside. … So I think them kind of being open and honest is good in a way because we know kind of what they think.”

But a moment later. Simpson mused, “I don’t know if they texted each other on the side and possibly went in agreement, ‘Let’s play this thing up for the Player Impact Program (which splits a $40 million purse among the 10 most popular players in any given year).’

“That,” Simpson chuckled, “was kind of one of my thoughts. But it would be fun to see them duel it out in a tournament here coming up, head-to-head on Sunday.”

Not if Lefty has anything to say about it.

“It’s a unique opportunity because I’ve never won a U.S. Open. It’s in my backyard. I have a chance to prepare properly, and I wanted to put in the right work,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve kind of shut off all the noise. I’ve shut off my phone. I’ve shut off a lot of the other stuff to where I can kind of focus in on this week.

“Now,” he added, “you always need some luck, you always need things to kind of come together and click, but I know that I’m playing well, and I just wanted to give myself every opportunity to be in play at my best.”

Other pairings worth a peek (all tee times EDT): Mickelson, Schauffle and Max Homa (10:51 a.m.); Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler and Spieth (4:25 p.m.); Dustin Johnson, McIlroy and Justin Rose (4:36 p.m.).


More AP golf: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison, left, celebrates his touchdown against Michigan with teammate ...
Associated Press

Ohio State is 5 in second-to-last CFP rankings behind USC

Ohio State was No. 5 Tuesday night in the second-to-last College Football Playoff rankings, positioned to possibly take advantage if one of the top four slips up on championship weekend. Georgia (12-0) was No. 1 again. No. 2 Michigan (12-0) and No. 3 TCU (12-0) both moved up a spot and Southern California (11-1) climbed […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark answers a question d...
Associated Press

MLBPA keeps Clark, extends executive director through 2027

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Major League Baseball Players Association has voted to extend the contract of executive director Tony Clark through 2027. The 50-year-old Clark — who had a 15-year big league career, mostly with the Tigers and Diamondbacks — helped broker the players’ current labor deal with MLB. After several contentious months of […]
17 hours ago
FILE - New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker (8) dribbles up the court during the second half of an NB...
Associated Press

Mavs unclear on timeline for Walker as 4-time All-Star signs

DALLAS (AP) — The timeline for Kemba Walker to contribute for the Dallas Mavericks is uncertain as the four-time All-Star joins a roster in need of playmaking help behind superstar Luka Doncic. Walker went unsigned the first six weeks of the season before the 32-year-old guard was officially added by Dallas on Tuesday. Plagued by […]
17 hours ago
Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley stands on the sideline during the second half of an NC...
Associated Press

Trojan transformation: Lincoln Riley’s remarkable fix at USC

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Lincoln Riley took over Southern California’s four-win football program one year ago this week, the coach stood on the top rim of the Coliseum and boldly declared his Trojans should be competing for championships right away. Riley chuckled Tuesday when he was reminded of that exhilarating time in his life […]
17 hours ago
United States' Weston McKennie (8) celebrates after teammate Christian Pulisic scoring a goal durin...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: World Cup highlights from Day 10

Highlights from the 10th day of the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday. ___ AP World Cup coverage: and Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
2 days ago
Iran's Saeid Ezatolahi, right, reacts while the players of the United States celebrate at the end o...
Associated Press

Pulisic goal advances US in World Cup with 1-0 win over Iran

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Christian Pulisic kicked the ball, scored the goal and then crashed into the goalkeeper, a collision that sent the American star to the hospital and the United States into the second round of the World Cup. More than an hour later, he contacted his teammates by FaceTime to join the celebration. […]
2 days ago
US Open serves up major championship with a side of ‘beef’