Open Championship recap & Bryson v Brooks (again)

How impressive was Collin Morikawa at Royal St Georges? I can acknowledge the greatness now that I’ve had a little time to get over the money I missed out on. I had backed both Jordan Spieth and Louis Oosthuizen so it’s fair to say I wasn’t exactly rooting for young Collin. In fact, I was cursing him and his stupid, relentlessly accurate iron play.

I couldn’t enjoy his performance as it hit me in the wallet but now that the dust has settled I’m pleased for him. He deserved it as that was an absolute masterclass he put on over the weekend. Plus he seems like a good lad doesn’t he?

He’s now played eight majors and won two of them, which begs the question of how many more he has in him? A lot, would be my guess because when he’s putting well there are very few players who can live with him.

Jon Rahm is one of those few. He was incredible on Sunday and could easily have shot 60 if he’d just managed to hole some putts. Given how many makeable ones the notoriously volatile Spaniard missed on the front nine I was actually shocked his putter even made it to the turn.

Those two were ridiculously good on Sunday, which sadly we can’t say about poor old Louis who has missed out on another major. Imagine how stressed he’d be feeling if he didn’t have that Open win back in 2010. He’d be the ultimate bridesmaid with all his second and third place finishes. Does he deserve praise for always being up there, or criticism for never finishing it off? Difficult one that.

Until this week I was definitely in the ‘praise him’ camp but he did kind of make a mess of it in that final round this time so now I’m not sure. I was rooting hard for him to win even though I’d have pocketed more money if Spieth had come through. That was pretty magnanimous of me I’d suggest, but Louis threw that back in my face with his poor play. Next time I’ll root with my bank balance instead of my heart.

Brooks v Bryson rumbled on but it’s increasingly clear this isn’t a fight; it’s more of an assault. Only one guy is throwing punches here. Bryson does not want any part of this and mostly tries to diffuse it whenever possible. Any jabs he’s thrown have been playful ones (like the ‘he’s got no abs’ barb) but then Brooks just starts throwing haymakers and vicious upper cuts.

Brooks was at it again early in the week when he faced the media, taking us on a deep dive into why he can’t stand DeChambeau and even going into a “previously on Brooks v Bryson” recap and explaining where it all originated. He has no qualms about discussing it and clearly doesn’t want this to go away. But then why would he? It’s made him relevant to people who don’t follow golf.

Koepka is a great player and a four time major champion but to the non-golf fanatic he’s got far more publicity and notoriety for this feud than he has for his back to back US Opens and USPGA Championships. This beef is good for him. For Bryson, not so much. And even if he won’t say so he clearly knows it.

“I’m just here to play golf and focus on that. If we want to keep bantering back and forth, obviously being respectful and keeping lines where they aren’t getting crossed, yeah, I think it’s fun and a good environment for people in golf.”

He has been respectful and hasn’t crossed any lines but doing that against someone like Koepka is like showing up to a gunfight armed only with his greens book and a protein shake. Brooks may as well have grabbed Bryson’s arm and be slapping him in the face with his own hand while saying “dude, stop hitting yourself”.

I mean, compare their thoughts on being team-mates in the Ryder Cup and if they would have a problem playing together.

Bryson:  “Oh, no, not at all. I think would be kind of funny actually. I think we’d do well, to be honest. I’d love it. It would create a little interesting vibe for the team or for the guys we’re playing against.”

Brooks: “I’m not playing with him. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be paired together; put it that way. I think it’s kind of obvious. It’s only a week. I can put it aside for business. If we’re going to be on the same team, I can deal with anybody in the world for a week.

“It doesn’t matter. We’re not going to be high-fiving and having late-night conversations. I do my thing, he does his thing. Yeah, we’re on the same team, but it’s not an issue at all. I don’t view it as an issue. I don’t think he does. I can put anything aside for a team, business, whatever, just to get the job done. No problem with that.”

DeChambeau wants it to go away but Koepka is having too much fun to stop. He’s more in demand now than he was when he was dominating majors and he seems to be relishing it. And Bryson just keeps unintentionally giving him ammunition.

Brooks had a lot of fun when Bryson’s caddy quit and then this week there were the shenanigans with Cobra and the “driver sucks” thing. Brooks was straight in with his “I love my driver” retort and sure, it was funny, but let’s not forget that it was Bryson who loaded that gun and put it in Koepka’s hand.

If I was in Bryson’s camp I’d be throwing the damn towel in on his behalf now. It’s uncomfortable, he’s completely outmatched and unable to defend himself as he just doesn’t have any ‘game’ when it comes to this kind of thing. He’s socially awkward, almost completely devoid of any wit (I say ‘almost’ because that was funny the other week when he was jumping up and down to video bomb a Brooks interview) and he generally makes me cringe when he tries to come across as being ‘normal’.

So far the only time he’s really hit back was to say “Nice to see I’m living rent free in your head” which is right up there with “I know you are, but what am I?” when it comes to witty retorts. In fact, Bryson trying to engage with Brooks reminds of this infamous clip when Charlie Nicholas tries to have a go back at Jeff Sterling and it ends up being the most excruciatingly uncomfortable thing ever.

It feels like it’s open season on him now and everyone wants to pile in. It’s bad enough we have fans heckling Bryson with calls of ‘Brooksy’ but now we have media members doing it too. Seriously fella, leave the ‘bantz’ to Paddy Power and show some respect for your profession. It’s not funny, it’s not clever and it’s really unprofessional. Bryson handled that with far more dignity than I would have done.

This may seem like I’m siding with the big fella but that’s not the case. I’m not a fan of his (although I’m not not a fan either) but don’t tell me he isn’t box office or that he’s not great for golf because he damn sure is and that’s a hill I’m prepared to die on. People want to watch him and he was actually received very well by the Royal St George’s ‘patrons’.

By the way, is there a worse thing in golf than the use of the word ‘patrons’ to describe fans? I’ll answer that for you. Yes, “double eagle” instead of “albatross”. Other than that, no there isn’t.

To get back to the subject at hand I do get why many people don’t like DeChambeau and he definitely brings a lot of this stuff on himself because of a staggering lack of self awareness or savvy.

Even in his press conference this week he said; “In my heart of hearts, I really think I’m a great person and a really good person to be around, a kind person to be around. It’s sometimes difficult, but at the end of the day you can just keep doing what you’re doing, and I think that’s why for me I’ve done a lot on social media, done a lot of YouTube series to showcase myself in a different light because I want people to see that side. I think there’s a lot of greatness to that and also humbleness to that, as well.” 

Hahaha good god almighty! Only Bryson could describe himself as both great and humble in the same sentence and not see how ludicrous it is. This is the problem though; he doesn’t get it. It’s not even entirely his fault but he badly needs someone to tell him. Someone he will listen to. Who is going to do that though?

Not his new caddie, who will surely not want to risk upsetting his new boss and lose one of the most lucrative meal tickets on tour. Nor his agent, who will know that the more publicity Bryson gets the more sponsors are going to be lining up for a piece of him (might want to have a word with him about not trashing those sponsors publicly though). Certainly not the Tik Tok ‘bros’ who appear to live with him based on his YouTube stuff.

What a car crash that is by the way. Just when you’re thinking “you know, he’s not that bad really” as he’s talking about life on tour and explaining various facets of his golf game, but then he invariably follows it up by doing something that makes you want to bleach your eyeballs.

He needs someone to guide him and help him become more relatable. Maybe Phil can do it? After all, no-one is more relatable and liked than Phil these days. The King of golf social media seems to be trying to take Bryson under his wing recently and that is surely a good thing. Bryson is clearly a chode but I don’t see any genuine malice in the guy. He’s just a bit of a try hard, for want of a better phrase. He doesn’t seem to be able to make himself relatable or likeable to people which combined with the huge success he’s had is going to present some problems.

Don’t laugh, but I see some similarities between Bryson and my all time hero, the late great Payne Stewart. Now hold on, bear with me here. I’m not comparing them personality wise, I’d never do that because no-one loved Payne Stewart more than me. NO-ONE. Not even his own family. Ok, maybe his family did. But no-one else. I was obsessed with Payne, I still am to some extent even now.

But he wasn’t perfect and in his younger years he had his critics because he had this habit of saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was seen as cocky, brash, arrogant, he could be disrespectful and he landed himself in trouble from time to time. Sound familiar?

Bryson is different in the sense that he’s – and I mean this is the nicest possible way – a massive dork, whereas Payne was pretty damn cool even when he was being a dick. But they both rubbed people up the wrong way by just not knowing when not to say and do certain things. With Payne it might be celebrating in the press area while poor Mike Reid was still out on the course blowing the 1989 USPGA Championship, or doing an inappropriate and somewhat offensive ‘Father Ted style’ impersonation of the Chinese because he wanted to get back at Peter Aliss.

With Bryson it’s telling the world that for him “Augusta is a Par 67” or causing his own club sponsors to call him “stupid, never happy and like an 8 year old kid” following his “driver sucks” tantrum. There are plenty of other examples but just like with Payne there’s no malice there and he isn’t deliberately trying to offend anyone. There’s just a lack of awareness that could be remedied by the right person having a word in his ear.

For Stewart that was his wife Tracy, who was there to keep him in line and tell him when he overstepped the mark. He also became a ‘man of faith’, which helped, and although he never lost his sense of mischief he did manage to – mostly – stop putting his foot in it so much and by the time he was tragically taken from us he was one of the most popular and beloved players on tour.

That’s what Bryson needs. Not so much the ‘finding God’ part, as any conversation Bryson is likely to have with the man upstairs won’t extend much further than “how much can you bench, dude?” or “hey bro, do you get a higher ball speed up there? I mean, I guess it’s like playing at super-altitude, right?” He just needs someone to help him grow and mature and tell him things like, oh I don’t know, “don’t tell people how great you are and then say you’re humble” and maybe familiarise him with the old adage that “a bad workman blames his tools”.   

Any time I watch Bryson’s YouTube videos and see that shirtless bro-fest he goes home to after his tournaments, it just makes me sad. I dread to think what Brooks makes of those videos. I’m actually staggered he hasn’t made a quip about them yet. Maybe he hasn’t seen them because his disdain for Bryson is such that he can’t even look at him?

That’s the only explanation I can think of for him not going to town on Bryson and his Tok Tok entourage, because it’s the lowest of low hanging fruit and bullies love an easy target.

Ok, I take that back, bully is too strong a word for Brooks but there is a similarity here with the jock in the movies who knocks the food tray out of the nerd’s hands in the dinner hall, leaving him covered in mashed potato and milk while everyone else laughs. Even those who feel bad for the nerd don’t want to speak out to put a stop to it, and some even join in to make themselves more popular. Yes Justin Thomas, I’m looking at you and your “Mr Physics” cheapshot.

Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie, ‘Finno’, even had a little shot at big Bryson too. He wasn’t the only one and it’s beginning to feel like the scene in Airplane when everyone was lining up to slap the hysterical, screaming woman across the face.

Staying with the movie analogies I’ve been trying to find a valid comparison and initially I was going to say that Brooks is the Biff to Bryson’s George McFly, but George McFly was likeable and a definite good guy. I feel like Bryson is more of a classic comic book villain who was picked on for being a nerd, but then suddenly gets superpowers and becomes evil just so he can get back at everyone who ever wronged him.

Eventually I’m sure Bryson will grow up, stop saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and he might even become likeable. And I’d bet every last penny I have that one day we’ll see Tiger & Phil replaced on ‘the Match’ and it will be “Bryson v Brooks”. I for one am well and truly here for that content.

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Author: David Usher

Bang average golfer. Avid collector of vintage Ping putters and World's biggest Payne Stewart fan. Golf equipment reviews for and writer for Golf Monthly.

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