Some athletes thrive competing amid an atmosphere of controversy, conflict and chaos.
Others wilt when faced with having to compete with these elements circling around them.
Count Brooks Koepka as Exhibit A for the former and Bryson DeChambeau as a classic case study for the latter.
Both players have developed a propensity for drawing attention to themselves — and to each other.
That brings us to the 149th British Open this week at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, where I don’t expect DeChambeau to have as good a week as Koepka.
Because, despite his well-earned status as a constant lightning rod, DeChambeau doesn’t thrive under controversy and conflict the way Koepka does.
There are too many forces working against DeChambeau this week, beginning with the fact that he has played in three British Opens and missed the cut twice and tied for 51st in one.
More than that, however, are the exterior forces that may be working against DeChambeau, including that he’s using a new caddie for the first time, three weeks removed from splitting with his longtime looper, Tim Tucker, the day before the opening round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
DeChambeau, too, was peppered with questions on Tuesday about Koepka’s overt disdain for him and his seeming delight in publicly poking at the fractured relationship between the two.
In his pre-tournament press conference Tuesday, Koepka opened fire at DeChambeau.
“We had a conversation at Liberty [National], and he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain and I didn’t like that, so I’ll take my shots,’’ Koepka said when asked about the root cause of their row.
Koepka was referring to a conversation the two had at the 2019 Northern Trust in Jersey City, where he said they agreed not to mention each other in public and “just kind of let it die off.’’
Then, according to Koepka, DeChambeau “brought my name up and said a few things’’ on some online video game channel, “so now it’s fair game.’’
Koepka, who was seen on a leaked-out Golf Channel video from the PGA Championship ridiculing DeChambeau, has continued to troll DeChambeau via social media, including telling fans, who were ejected from a tournament earlier this summer for calling Bryson “Brooksy,’’ that he would buy them a beer.
After the mysterious parting of ways between DeChambeau and his caddie, Koepka posted what essentially was a love letter to his caddie, Ricky Elliott.
When Koepka was asked how he was going to be able to co-exist with DeChambeau as Ryder Cup teammates in September, he responded: “You realize it’s only a week, right?’’
“If we’re going to be on the same team, I can deal with anybody in the world for a week,’’ he went on. “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. We’re not going to be high-fiving and having late-night conversations. I do my thing; he does his thing. I have no problem with that.’’
DeChambeau has a history of having problems with his performance when dealing with outside distractions. Entering the 2020 Masters, he touted that his length might overpower the course, then he struggled all week.
Then there was Detroit. DeChambeau and his caddie split, he missed the cut and he declined to speak to reporters on his way out despite the fact that he’s an ambassador for the title sponsor of the event.
“I’m somebody that doesn’t necessarily like controversy,’’ DeChambeau said Tuesday. “I just like doing my own thing. Do I like showcasing something unique and different? Yeah, but I guess what comes with that is controversy, and I guess that’s something that I don’t necessarily deal the best with sometimes.
“Everybody is human. We have emotion, and I think that sometimes people objectify us big players at the top of the game too much and they don’t realize that we are human and we make mistakes and things happen. I never grew up to become famous. I grew up to play golf.’’
Asked about Koepka’s comments earlier in the day, DeChambeau said, “He can say whatever he wants. I think he said something back at Liberty National [about] not upholding something. Maybe I didn’t. I really don’t remember anything about that. I’m just here to play golf and focus on that.’’
Two days before he was to tee off on a tricky links course that doesn’t suit his power game, and on a day when he was peppered with questions about his ongoing back-and-forth with Koepka, DeChambeau hardly sounded like a player ready to compete for the Claret Jug this week.