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The Match: 3 things we learned from Brooks Koepka defeating Bryson DeChambeau

by Mikael Harris
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Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau put their long-standing feud on the line on Friday in The Match

It was over in just two hours, but The Match between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau was years in the making.

Koepka and DeChambeau finally got the chance to settle their rivalry on Friday at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas. It was a one-sided affair right from the start, with Koepka pulling ahead by the second hole of the 12-hole match-play exhibition and beating DeChambeau 4&3. He got a gold bracelet, won some money for charity, and, perhaps most importantly to him, got bragging rights over his nemesis.

It was the type of performance that should silence the incessant feud between the two that began nearly three years ago when Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play and escalated at the PGA Championship in May when Koepka was caught rolling his eyes in a television interview as DeChambeau walked behind him.

Throughout the summer, endless chants of “Brooksy” directed at DeChambeau, and a forced partnership at the Ryder Cup, Brooks vs. Bryson dominated golf headlines in 2021 and sparked heated debate. Did they really not like each other? Or was it all a publicity stunt? The Match helped answer some of these questions.

Here are three things we learned from Koepka’s dominating performance in Las Vegas.

The Match: 3 takeaways from Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau3. Koepka really wanted to winKoepka is a four-time major champion and former World No. 1. But those major triumphs have also brought along a lingering question that has dogged him throughout his career. He’s so good on the biggest tournaments, so why doesn’t he play that way in regular events?

In the majors, Koepka is the most dominant player of this generation. He was the first-ever to hold back-to-back major titles simultaneously, which he did at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Since 2016, he’s a combined 92-under in majors, 64 shots better than the rest of the field. He’s finished at least in the top-10 in 77 percent of his appearances the last four seasons, including eight of his last 10.

But on the PGA Tour, he has just four other victories. He arrived in Las Vegas having not finished better than 38th in any of his four starts this season and missed the cut in each of his last two tournaments.

Against DeChambeau, though, “Majors” Brooks showed up.

Koepka won the second hole. He won the par-five fifth to take a two-up lead. He hit his approach to 11-feet at the par-three sixth and went three-up. At the ninth, a 172-yard par-three, Koepka stuck another tee shot to within 10 feet.

“Where is this on the PGA Tour?” DeChambeau asked.

“This is kind of like my major right now,” Koepka replied. “I’m not going to lie. I just wanted to spank him.”

It was over on the ninth green without DeChambeau winning a hole. Everything that has gone on between the two over the past few months, every emotion that Koepka felt as he watched DeChambeau bulk up and become the premier power player on tour, was brought out on Friday.

“It was fun to come out here and settle this,” he told host Amanda Balionis following the match. “Enough said.”

A motivated Koepka is still the most dangerous player on tour. DeChambeau found that out the hard way.

2. There is mutual respect between Brooks and BrysonThe first time Koepka and DeChambeau played with each other in a tournament was in the final round of the 2016 Masters. DeChambeau was still an amateur, Koepka not yet a major champion. Both were much different players than they are now.

Their paths have only crossed three more times in the five years since that first encounter—the third round of the Tour Championship in 2018, and the first two rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2019. Koepka had never seen DeChambeau’s power game up close. Until today.

Following the match, the two players took part in two challenge holes, one a longest drive contest and the other a closest-to-the-hole. Koepka, one of the longest players on tour, was in awe seeing the ball come off DeChambeau’s clubface.

“Don’t tell me what you’re hitting,” Koepka sheepishly said after hitting his five-iron on the closest-to-the-hole over the green.

It was a comment that revealed, despite the animosity that exists between them, there is still grudging respect for the golfing talent that each possesses. “Obviously, watching him up close and personal was pretty neat. Pretty special to watch him hit the ball. There is respect there,” Koepka said.

“I’ve always had respect for Brooks because of his four major championships and what he’s done for the game,” DeChambeau said. “At the end of the day it was 12 holes and he got me.”

They aren’t best friends. DeChambeau likely won’t be invited to Koepka’s upcoming wedding to fiancee Jena Sims. There won’t be many hugs exchanged between them. But they came away from The Match with added respect for each other, and that’s enough.

1. Phil Mickelson has found a second careerPhil Mickelson is 51 years old. Outside of his miraculous triumph at Kiawah Island last May, when he became the oldest player in history to win a major at the PGA Championship, he hasn’t seriously contended on the PGA Tour in more than a year. His already-Hall of Fame career is clearly winding down.

What’s next for the six-time major champion may have been decided on Friday.

Whenever Mickelson finally decides that his playing career is over, that he can no longer compete with players half his age on the PGA Tour, a spot will open up for him in the broadcast booth. Every major network that broadcasts golf, either CBS or NBC, will race to add him to their lineup, much like Tony Romo in the NFL.

Mickelson showed a brand of irreverent humor and sophisticated analysis in his role as commentator for The Match, alongside Charles Barkley. He was able to call out shots before they were hit. He understood the intricacies of each putt, every bunker shot, and every shot coming out of the rough unlike any other commentator. It was a masterclass to the viewing public in what a professional golfer thinks before actually hitting the ball.

Even Koepka and DeChambeau, wearing earpieces, confessed they were helped out by Mickelson’s analysis. Mickelson was also able to poke fun at himself, such as when Koepka told the story of when he lost the U.S. Open trophy — the one major championship Mickelson lacks.

“You lost me at U.S. Open trophy,” Mickelson joked.

He’s one of the greatest players in the game’s history. He’ll become one of the best commentators, as well. Just when that will be is entirely up to him.

One more thing we learned on Friday? This won’t be the last encounter between these two stars.

“Hopefully, there will be a rematch,” DeChambeau said. Koepka has the clout over his rival, at least for now. There’s always next time.

Source : FanSided

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