The Bryson DeChambeau-Brooks Koepka dispute is far and away the most interesting off-the-course story in golf right now and probably the most interesting golf story in quite some time. It's the rare golf story that has superseded the traditional fanbase and has become a national interest.
That does not happen very often, and the USGA wanted to take advantage. The U.S. Open will take place this weekend, the first major championship since the now-infamous video of Koepka rolling his eyes at DeChambeau's passing form went viral. The powers that be in the game of golf wanted to pair the two together for the tournament. According to Brad Faxon, the USGA called DeChambeau and his agent to ask if he would be okay with getting paired with Koepka.
He said no. Here's Faxon telling SiriusXM radio host Michael Breed the story.
It's more than a little lame to say no to that. It also sparks initial confusion that the USGA even asked. They are the ruling power in golf and could have chosen the pairing regardless of the feelings. They do not need permission, as far as we know. But, then again, first-round pairings are rarely newsworthy happenings and this might just be the first time we've ever heard of the USGA asking a golfer's permission. It could be standard practice.
And, as fun as it would be to see them on the course, you get where DeChambeau is coming from. Both he and Koepka are trying to make money and win a major championship. Getting paired with each other after everything that's happened would definitely qualify as a distraction, and an unnecessary one at that. DeChambeau might very well relish the idea of playing next to Koepka and showing him up, but would prefer not to do it during one of the biggest tournaments of the year.
Nevertheless, it stinks. It would have been great for both the average fan and golf fanatic, drawing far more eyeballs than the first round of most tournaments might usually get. Maybe they'll try again for something like the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July.
UPDATE: The U.S. Open pairings for the opening round has been released and, as expected, DeChambeau and Koepka are in different groups. However, the USGA and DeChambeau's agent both denied Faxon's claim that the governing body asked the golfer for permission to pair him with Koepka. Per ESPN:
Brett Falkoff, DeChambeau's agent, said talk of such a request by the United States Golf Association was "100 percent false.'' Craig Annis, brand manager for the USGA, also said that "Bryson was not asked.''
In a statement sent to ESPN, Falkoff said: "The USGA did not reach out to Bryson regarding a potential pairing with Brooks Koepka. Bryson is fully focused on defending the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines this week.''