This was supposed to be a rivalry. There were expectations of hard feelings coming to the forefront, perhaps the odd insult.
Instead, Friday’s televised match between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau was more like a watching a buddy trip to Las Vegas.
There weren’t any verbal punches thrown and the closest they came to any physical altercations was a fist bump on the first tee. No insults were handed out, although DeChambeau did pass out cupcakes with pictures of Koekpka on them to the gallery.
Hard-hitting grudge match? The fifth version of ‘The Match’ had all the intensity of a basket full of puppies.
In fact, the two were more complimentary than antagonistic. “Nice putt D,” Koepka said after DeChambeau rolled in a putt to tie the fourth hole.
“Good shot there,” DeChambeau said as one of Koepka’s approaches rolled close to the hole.
After he missed his birdie putt on the ninth hole, DeChambeau conceded the match to his opponent. “Congratulations,” he offered with a smile, then went over and picked up Koepka’s ball marker and handed it to him in a gracious manner. Memories of Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin at the Ryder Cup flooded back.
There were moments during the round where the love train derailed. When it was confirmed that this was the first time the two combatants had played together, Koepka was asked if it made him want to play with DeChambeau more often.
“No,” he said succinctly, but with a smile.
The expected tension wasn’t the only thing missing; so was some consistently good golf. Both golfers flailed away off the tee, bouncing shots off trees and landing them in adjoining fairways. DeChambeau also struggled on the greens, missing some makeable putts that allowed Koepka to hold the lead throughout. There were some nice shots on the day, just not enough of them.
Most, if not all, of the entertainment came, not surprisingly, from the broadcast booth where Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley, kept what might have been an otherwise dull broadcast, light.
Mickelson, who for some unknown reason wore sunglasses for the entire show, dominated the audio, talking about everything from how to play the holes on the Wynn Golf Course to how alpha and beta brain waves will be the next great breakthrough for top golfers. At times, it seemed he had no off switch, babbling into the earpieces the golfers were wearing as they tried to play shots and talking over caddie-player conversations that were a rare interesting part of the day. But that can be forgiven for what he added to the event, including talk of his final round of this year’s PGA Championship where he played with Koepka, whom he tried not to incite for fear of getting him going.
Barkley was his usual self-deprecating self, offering up the not-very-surprising fact that he enjoys a cocktail when he plays golf and that he loved beating Michael Jordan on the course, although it happened rarely.
There was also good banter with the players as they drove their carts between shots, the best being Koepka giving the needle to Mickelson for picking DeChambeau to win.
The antagonism wasn’t there, the golf was lacking and the course was unremarkable. The scorecard will show that Koepka won the match 4 and 3, but no one will care about that. Even though there was no hug at the end as there was at the Ryder Cup it’s likely that this event will end the rivalry between the two. They’ve exposed their soft sides, they’ve offered each other praise and that makes it hard to start lobbing social media shots at each other again.