November 26, 2021 - 3:15 pm
Updated November 27, 2021 - 4:15 am
Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau talked a good game in the days leading up to Friday’s made-for-TV match at Wynn Golf Club. But when it came time to play, the only talking done was by Koepka’s game.
Golf’s bitterest rivalry featured virtually no chatter between the players — let alone any of the promised trash talk — as Koepka made short work of golf’s biggest hitter.
Koepka birdied the second hole and never looked back, making five birdies in nine holes to win 4 and 3 over DeChambeau, who had nothing but pars on his scorecard.
DeChambeau showed plenty of power without a lot of accuracy. His shaky short game and failure to make any putts were no contest for Koepka.
After a birdie at No. 6 put him 3 up, Koepka strolled off the green and said to the cameras, “Any questions?”
The only one was how much longer the match would last. The answer was a mere three holes.
“This is what the world’s been waiting for,” Koepka said, repeating his pre-match mantra as he drove up the first fairway.
But it wasn’t what the world was expecting. The two major champions have spent the past three years snipping at each other on social media and through the media, showing outright contempt for one another.
Little of that was on display Friday. They kept their dialogue with one another to little more than conceding putts, instead using their Air Pods to converse with Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley in the announcer’s booth.
Mickelson, who played in the previous four versions of The Match and is an executive producer of the series, worked overtime to provide entertainment and insight into the match. But he could do little to get DeChambeau’s game on track.
That wasn’t an issue with Koepka, who birdied Nos. 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 with little stress.
“A focused Koepka is a tough Koepka,” Mickelson said.
Koepka knew early on he was in control of the day. When his birdie on No. 5 put him 2 up — a par 5 that DeChambeau hit driver-7 iron to the front of the green but failed to make birdie — in his mind the match was over.
“It won’t go 12,” he told his brother, Chase Koepka, an accomplished player himself who served as his caddie Friday.
The match-play event was slated for 12 holes to both fit a TV window and avoid the potential for sunset disrupting late holes. But the way Koepka played, he was packed up, back in his hotel room and celebrating with his team before daylight was gone.
“He got me,” a subdued DeChambeau said. “Hopefully there will be a rematch soon.”
Asked if his solid play made him want to get paired again in the future, Koepka was brief in his answer: “No. Just no.”
The match raised a little more than $3 million for a number of charities and paid for more than 7 million meals through Feeding America.
At a trophy ceremony, both expressed respect for each other’s games. Koepka said it was eye-opening to watch DeChambeau swing his driver up close, while DeChambeau said he had nothing but admiration for someone with four major championships on his resume.
“There is respect,” Koepka said. “But it was fun to come out here and settle this.”
But away from DeChambeau, Koepka was slightly less diplomatic. As they stood on the ninth tee and the match all but over, he expressed his true feelings to Mickelson.
“I’m not going to lie,” Koepka said. “I just wanted to spank him.”
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.