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Black Friday, an unofficial American holiday devoted to commerce and sold on, felt like a fitting date for Part 5 of The Match. This TV series of golf games began three years ago behind the star power of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and has since included football and basketball superstars. This time the winners of the major championship with the most open conflict in golf, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, were called.
The matchup came after a very public summer feud that mostly existed on social media that fans hoped would move onto the pitch. But the two had never gotten together in a major championship or PGA Tour tournament, so this lower-stakes 12-hole event came on at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas.
“This is what the world has been waiting for,” Koepka told the TNT program on the third tee on Friday afternoon. A strong player in the major championships, Koepka later said the match was “a bit like my major right now” as he hit a precise approach shot to end it with a 4 and 3 win on the ninth hole. There were no moments of tension or real adversity to speak of, just the usual courtesies, mild encouragement, and civil interactions that accompanied a round of golf.
Koepka and DeChambeau spent much of the summer cursing each other publicly and expressing dislike for one another. The feud dates back to 2019, when the Northern Trust faced the putting green over Koepka’s disapproval of the pace of DeChambeau’s play. There have been subtle comments and social media posts for the past few years, with DeChambeau once poking fun at Koepka’s body featured in the body issue of ESPN the Magazine and saying it has “no abs.” Koepka promptly responded with a tweeted image of his four major championship trophies with the caption: “I’m 2 short of a 6-pack!”
The dispute sparked the occasional drama and constant entertainment among the smaller golfing crowd. It was expanded to a much larger audience that year when footage of a Koepka interview with the Golf Channel from the PGA championship in May was leaked on Twitter. In the video, Koepka loses his train of thought and lets go of a series of strong expressions when an unsuspecting DeChambeau walks by loudly in his metal tips. The video was viewed 10 million times on Twitter before it was removed, and the image of Koepka’s rolling anger became a meme.
The video sparked a summer of back and forth between the two, which fans also took part in. The security guards at the Memorial Tournament in June would occasionally come up to fans and shout, “Brooks-y!” near DeChambeau. The PGA Tour said security had been notified of the heckling, but DeChambeau had not asked the tour to remove fans from the premises. That evening Koepka responded to the development with a video in which he offered all fans whose stay was “shortened” free beer from his sponsor. The ridicule then became a staple wherever DeChambeau played, which led to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan saying in August that it was classified as “harassing behavior” under the tour’s Fan Code of Conduct would not be tolerated.
“It’s disgusting the way the guy tried to knock me down,” DeChambeau said during the promotional interviews for the game. “In the game of golf, that is not necessary. He was just trying to knock me down in every corner, on every street. For what reason I don’t know. “
DeChambeau went on to cite a reason: Koepka might be motivated to benefit from the tour’s Player Impact Program. The program distributes a $ 40 million bonus pool to 10 players based on a range of metrics including popularity on Google searches. The feud and Koepka’s pinpoint comments and social media tactics have certainly bolstered both players’ profiles this year.
Koepka reiterated his dislike of his opponent ahead of this game, adding: “I’ve said it ten times, I’ve never really liked him.” There’s a real dislike and irritation there, even if a TV match with lots of commercial breaks felt like a reductive attempt to show it and resolve it.
The game had several charitable components, and the entire series of games had donated $ 30 million to various charities prior to this week’s release. But this was a more commercial venture, hyped around a competitive beef. A lush green golf course with ornate man-made waterfalls off the Las Vegas Strip in the middle of the desert was a fitting place. Various one-liners and moments of their feud were emblazoned on Koepka’s cart with his beer sponsor. There were side competitions sponsored by a sports betting company, private jet company, automotive and recruiting service, and a long-haul challenge sponsored by a bank.
Frustrations over a “long drive challenge” most likely sparked this beef, more than any tweet posted or putting green confrontation. At the 2019 PGA Championship, DeChambeau felt nervous about the grand championship style of golf at which Koepka excelled. “If you really want to prove who the best champion is, it’s not a long-drive contest,” DeChambeau told the Golf Channel of the Bethpage course setup. “That’s why they have long distance competitions out here. It’s about precision. So when you start to get it really tight I get the tight part. But when you start extending it to the amounts they extended it to, I personally think it’s a mess. “
DeChambeau argued against large championship setups that simply use length as the primary test and defense of the course. “That tests the best ball striker,” he said in May 2019. “That’s what majors should be about. It shouldn’t be a driving competition. “
Koepka won his fourth major at Bethpage that week. DeChambeau, walking away in frustration, would soon undergo a complete body change that had made him leader of the PGA Tour for the past two years and a major champion at the US Open last fall at Winged Foot in New York.
The match wasn’t like a major’s melting pot that they both won, but Koepka will get away with some form of bragging rights that is sure to offer more social media fodder.