AUGUSTA, Ga. — Give Brandel Chamblee this: He is a man of conviction, and one unafraid of discourse. But he’s choosing a bizarre hill to die on.
Earlier this week, Chamblee had some choice words for Brooks Koepka. The three-time major champ had recently disclosed that a new diet—possibly for a magazine shoot—had a detrimental effect on his golf game. Why Koepka would dare tinker with his game, given the heater he’s been on the past 18 months, was a decision of great wonder, and vexation, for Chamblee.
“Now, for him to change his body and his body chemistry, for vanity reasons, for a vanity shoot, is the most reckless self sabotage that I have ever seen of an athlete in his prime,” Chamblee said. “I get why they ask Gary Player to do that shoot. I get why they ask Greg Norman to do that shoot.
“But to do something that takes you out of your game, to change your game completely, it’s never worked out very well. I think he’d be at the top of everybody’s list to win at Augusta National had he not done this and had his game not declined.”
Koepka’s first-round 66 at the Masters was a formidable response in itself. But just in case the message wasn’t received, Koepka made sure it was triple-stamped Thursday evening.
“Well, I lift all the time. I lift too many weights, and I’m too big to play golf. And then when I lose weight, I’m too small. So, I don’t know,” Koepka said, laughing. “I don’t know what to say. I’m too big and I’m too small.
“Listen, I’m going to make me happy. I don’t care what anybody else says. I’m doing it for me, and obviously it seems to work.”
End of story, right? Except that Chamblee doubled-down on his Koepka indignation on Golf Channel’s “Live from the Masters,” questioning if the 28-year-old is tough enough to win at Augusta National.
“His talent is undeniable,” Chamblee said. “But I’ve heard people say this. You extrapolate from accomplishment, you infer qualities from a human being like, ‘He’s really tough.’ Maybe he is, I don’t know. I got to say, I still need to be convinced.”
At this point Rich Lerner somewhat indignantly jumped in. “You still need to be convinced that he’s tough? Hold on for a sec. The 16th hole at Bellerive. You can’t get any tougher than that. With everybody screaming and hollering for Tiger Woods. And he striped a 4 iron some 240 yards to make a two. How much more evidence do you need?”
Chamblee countered with the venues where Koepka’s won: Erin Hills, Shinnecock and Bellerive, specifically noting their generous fairway width.
“Power is the least variable asset. So because it’s the least variable asset, if a course rewards power disproportionately, there is not volatility. There has to be a penalty for an errant tee shot.
T”here’s a sense, and I’ve had people infer this, that he’s better than Dustin Johnson. That his five wins, three of which are major championships, are better than Dustin Johnson’s output. As if majors are the sole determinant of a player.”
Towards the end of the debate, David Duval and Frank Nobilo jumped in, saying Koepka won the courses he was presented with. “I’m not sure what more you want him to do,” Duval said.
Koepka, who’s won three majors in his last six major appearances (he missed last year’s Masters due to a wrist injury), tees off at 11:04 a.m. on Friday.