Sealed with a hug: Peace breaks out for feuding pair Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka

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The two Americans embraced on the 18th green
The two Americans embraced on the 18th green

In a gesture that signalled the end of the most toxic feud in golf, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau embraced beside the 18th green at Whistling Straits to toast their involvement in a record-breaking American Ryder Cup triumph.

It has been the masterstroke of Steve Stricker’s captaincy, uniting two obstinate players who even a week ago could barely stand the sight of each other. While the pair will never be close friends, their experiences together in the US team room have helped bring an end to months of simmering tensions.

The hug was perfunctory, but it spoke volumes. Stricker had been under huge pressure to broker the peace between two of his most explosive talents, and he brought them closer than anybody thought possible. After months of barbs from both sides, at one stage featuring an offer by Koepka to reward any fans abusing DeChambeau with free Michelob beer, the rapprochement is real.

“I’ve been nervous the past couple of weeks,” admitted Stricker, after masterminding this 19-9 victory. “I wanted to make sure that these guys got in the right positions. We feel like we had a lot of conversations, involving Tiger Woods and the assistant captains. We had a lot of communication throughout the whole match. We talked to one another. These guys love each other – the bottom line is that we all had a great time.”

The mending of the rift came at the climax of a week in which DeChambeau teased that “something fun” was about to be staged with both of them, only for Koepka to reply that he had “no idea” what he was talking about. At least there was nothing contrived about this embrace. It was a spontaneous Ryder Cup truce, illustrating the power of national loyalties to heal even the bitterest rows.

Bryson DeChambeau finally embraced as a stars-and-stripes icon

By Simon Briggs

Team USA has a new Captain America in its midst, and he is an unlikely superhero. Bryson DeChambeau came to Whistling Straits with a reputation as an awkward, self-absorbed laboratory technician: golf’s answer to Dr Frankenstein. He grew into a true stars-and-stripes icon, a charismatic figure trailed by the biggest crowds on the course.

While we are talking about superpowers, DeChambeau can do things that this sport has never seen before. Witness not only his 417-yard tee shot on the first day but also Sunday's opening drive, which did so much to set the tone for his 3&2 demolition of Sergio Garcia.

Some purists find DeChambeau golf unromantic, and there is indeed something unnatural about the way he launches himself into that vicious upward lurch; a man throwing salt over his shoulder. But it’s hard not to be captivated by the results. In this instance, he carried the ball 354 yards downwind and into the most perfect spot, just on the front edge so that it trickled nicely towards the heart of the green. Out of 32 opening drives this weekend, DeChambeau was the only man to find the putting surface. He celebrated by holing out from 41 feet for eagle.

Ryder Cups often hinge on momentum. And if Rory McIlroy’s first shot on Friday – the clumsiest of chips – set a bleak tone for Europe, then DeChambeau’s eagle laid down the gauntlet on Sunday. It was an irresistible opening salvo from America’s biggest gun.

Were we to put a highlight reel together of the whole weekend, DeChambeau would be there in spades. This is an enhanced golfer, in terms of his intimidating musculature, yet one with a silky short game to go with the violent haymakers. He also shows a similarly deft touch when it comes to engaging the fans.

On Sunday, a groan emerged from the fans around the sixth tee when DeChambeau opted against his driver and took three wood instead. “Guys, I’m still going for the green,” he said. “Calm down.” Then he blasted the ball 341 yards to leave it precisely pin high. Asked afterwards about the deafening crowd, he replied “They were electric. It's an atmosphere you don't get very often but one that you can feed off when you do.”

Any highlight reel from the weekend would feature DeChambeau in spades - GETTY IMAGES
Any highlight reel from the weekend would feature DeChambeau in spades - GETTY IMAGES

Compare the excitement that followed DeChambeau this week with the apathy surrounding his rival and chief antagonist Brooks Koepka. While DeChambeau has clearly embraced his partnership with his old college buddy Scottie Scheffler – a selection that was probably made especially for his benefit – Koepka has shown contrastingly little enthusiasm for the team format. On arriving at Whistling Straits, he disowned his previous moans about the Ryder Cup – which included the decidedly first-world problem that there is no time to nap – and claimed that the media had spun those comments negatively. But his disinterested body language has told a different story.

One can still hear isolated shouts of “Brooksie” around the course when DeChambeau struts past. In June, Koepka instructed his fans to yell his name at his least favourite colleague. But if Whistling Straits represented the latest skirmish in their ongoing cold war, DeChambeau came out as a comfortable victor. His whole demeanour here, together with his spectacular strokeplay, has gone a long way towards rehabilitating his image.

On Friday afternoon, DeChambeau had faced Europe’s key figure Jon Rahm in a fourballs match alongside Scheffler. The Americans took half a point from what was arguably the best contest of this whole Ryder Cup. Sunday almost felt like a reprise, as Scheffler faced on Rahm in the singles – going out at No3 in the batting order – while DeChambeau and Garcia followed them on to the first tee.

DeChambeau and Scheffler feel like a Texan duo, not because they were born there, but because that’s where they got to know each other in the middle of the last decade. Scheffler went to college in Austin, while DeChambeau is a product of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Inevitably, for a man obsessed with swing planes, he majored in physics.

Even though we were playing singles, it almost felt like an extension of their earlier double act. Together, DeChambeau and Scheffler blitzed Rahm and Garcia – the so-called Spanish Armada – before they even had a chance to line up their cannons. Scheffler’s opening run of four straight birdies represented the hottest start of the week. Rahm, who looked weary after playing each of the previous sessions, only scored pars on each of those four holes, and never managed to make up the ground, losing 4&3.

The American captain Steve Stricker could hardly have hoped to inflict more damage in what was a devastating first hour. The two centrepieces of the European team needed to extend their unbeaten run at Whistling Straits if there was to be any chance of late drama here. Instead, they both had their legs shot out from under them by a pair of inspired opponents. The most salient fact about the Armada, glorious though it must have looked in full sail, is that it ended on the wrong side

Despite their chastening singles results, Rahm and Garcia can leave Whistling Straits feeling more than content with what they achieved. Both men came into the event with a price on their heads – an old-fashioned “Wanted” poster, in Texan terms – but dealt with the expectation superbly. In the context of a historic shellacking, Padraig Harrington could hardly have asked for more.

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