If you’re here, you already know who technically won Brooks Koepka’s match vs. Bryson DeChambeau — Koepka in a landslide. But this was a showdown months in the making and a high-octane production to go with it. How’d it all go? Let’s review.
WINNER: Brooks Koepka’s mojo.
Let’s start with the basics: Koepka took a businesslike approach to the entire thing and dominated from start to finish. DeChambeau hammed it up and handed out Koepka-themed cupcakes on the first tee. Koepka said basically nothing, went on his way, took the lead at No. 2 and never looked back.
Post-round, Phil Mickelson pointed out that it was as much as he could remember seeing Koepka smile. This was a dream scenario for Big Bad Brooks: Lock in, act like this is all pretty “whatever” and then dominate. Although he did acknowledge a couple times just how much he wanted to win.
“I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to spank him,” he said. National TV wins count extra. Big dub for Brooks.
LOSER: Bryson DeChambeau’s mojo.
You could see the air come out of DeChambeau’s tires as the match went from “Advantage, Koepka” to watching his nemesis close out a blowout victory. That’s the beauty of sports: When you lose, there’s nothing you can say that will redeem the moment. DeChambeau recognized that — “He beat me. I can’t say s—,” he said afterwards — but it still clearly stung. Years of back-and-forth led to this match, which is a risky proposition. Anything can happen over 12 holes! And anything did happen. DeChambeau lost five holes, he tied four holes and he won zero holes. Not how he envisioned things going.
Earlier this week Koepka announced a multi-year gear deal with Cleveland/Srixon, and it’s tough to envision a better start to the partnership than a bunch of flagged irons in front of a national television audience. Koepka was more than a bit wayward off the tee but he did touch 188 ball speed and described his new weapon as “awesome,” so I think we can chalk that up as a pretty big win for his new partners.
LOSER: Hot mics.
As DeChambeau fell further behind, his filter slipped too, dropping a couple choice words.
“Alright,” he muttered as Koepka poured in a birdie putt to go 4 up with four holes to play. “Well, f— me!”
We’re not Puritanical enough to chide him for any wrongdoing, but it was a reminder of what comes with frustrated, mic’d-up golfers. It’s all good when things are going well, but at some point it’s tough to keep on a good face. Unfortunately we didn’t get any sheepish on-air apologies from broadcasters, among my favorite subgenres of TV production.
WINNER: Phil’s predictive powers.
Can you imagine Phil Mickelson being in your ear while you prepare to swing a golf club? The idea of him predicting where I’ll miss it (and then me obliging) sounds like too much to handle. But that’s exactly what Mickelson did to both DeChambeau and Koepka, who couldn’t quite get Mickelson out of their ears even as they played shots. It entertained Koepka, who told him, “good call,” as his ball fell in the hole for birdie at No. 2. But it didn’t have the same effect on DeChambeau.
“Oh no, I heard everything you guys were saying, middle of my putting stroke,” he said, trying to keep a grin after one short miss.
Mickelson is terrific in the booth because he leans into golf nerdery while also pressing the buttons of as many people as he possibly can. As a viewer, his style definitely takes some getting used to — but it’s undeniably entertaining. But that’s Phil, isn’t it?
LOSER: The U.S. Open trophy.
This thing has been through a lot. Koepka relayed a story from one particularly memorable trip to Las Vegas, when he and his entourage came after winning the 2017 U.S. Open. Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott insisted that they bring the U.S. Open trophy to dinner, Koepka recalled, so they tried — but it got turned away at the door.
“Only big trophies like the Stanley Cup,” Koepka said sheepishly.
Instead the trophy spent the next few hours in the hostess stand, unsupervised. Things got worse: later that night the top came separated from the trophy, got dinged up and only survived because a woman saw them drop it. And when Elliott came home, he set down the trophy to enter his hotel room — and promptly forgot he’d put it down. That’s how the U.S. Open trophy spent the night in a Las Vegas hallway. Quite the story, capped off with a proper response from Mickelson:
“You lost me at ‘U.S. Open trophy,’ he said wistfully.
WINNER: Sir Charles, one-liner king.
Once he got going, Charles Barkley was such a reliable contributor it’s tough to know where to begin. But let’s go with two particularly memorable descriptions. The first came as he described needing some recreational substances to get going on the course.
“I need that lube. I need that liquid lube,” Barkley said. “I have a couple cigars and have me a couple alcoholic beverages. Listen, you can’t play golf and not drink. It’s the only sport they let you drink while you are playing it. There’s a reason why: it’s the most unbeatable game in the world.”
The second moment came as he tried to unpack DeChambeau and Mickelson’s talk of “theta,” “flow” and “frequency.”
“That’s kinda like yoga,” Barkley countered, suggesting they were overcomplicating matters.
“Yoga’s just stretching, they just call it ‘yoga’ to charge you more. We’ve got that in the NBA, they call it analytics, the guy wants to get his son-in-law a job, they say ‘analytics,’ but analytics is nothing but statistics.”
While we’re on the subject of Barkley one-liners, nobody took a tougher drive-by than the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who already had it tough enough after blowing a three-score lead to Iowa in the fourth quarter. But they got it worse still when Barkley revealed he’d invested in their afternoon.
After the result itself had been decided, DeChambeau and Koepka went to the long drive hole, where they started tossing in extra donations and Barkley offered up $25,000.
“That’s it?” DeChambeau said. “You must have lost on the tables last night.”
“No,” Barkley answered, then paused while he considered how much to share. “Nebraska gave up the lead today.”
WINNER: The Match, still.
Here’s the thing about The Match: It’s imperfect. The pacing can be awkward, sometimes it’s cringeworthy, the matches aren’t always close, the player back-and-forth doesn’t always work and on a basic level it’s tricky to only have two players on the course and base an entire show around it. But despite all of that, it’s entertaining as hell. Even the bad parts are good TV. I found myself glued to the broadcast, not wanting to miss the best exchange or game-changing shot. If they keep coming up with compelling matchups, I’ll keep watching every shot. The Match is a big-time winner, even when it doesn’t seem like it should be.