Back in the summer, there genuinely seemed to be bad blood flowing between two of America’s highest-profile golfers, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.
It seems ridiculous now but the ill feeling was even cited as a reason why Europe would win the Ryder Cup.
While Padraig Harrington’s men would all get along swimmingly, the US camp would be a cesspit of division due to the pair’s antics.
But lo and behold, they all seemed to get along just fine and DeChambeau and Koepka played their part in a record US win.
Shortly after the Ryder Cup, the feud took on a new twist. Both would go head-to-head in the latest edition of The Match, a concept started with the showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson three years ago.
Many golf fans thought they’d been played; that the feud was phony. Or was it that someone, somewhere spotted that DeChambeau and Koepka genuinely despised each other and decided to monetize it?
Whatever happened, we’ve arrived at The Match. Here’s what you need to know:
The Match V
When: Friday, July 26, 9pm GMT
Where: Las Vegas
The Course: Wynn Golf Club
Format: Matchplay over 12 holes. The two will be mic’d up throughout the event, and in the commentary box, trash talk merchants Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley will be able to speak live to both players.
How to watch: The Match will be broadcast on TNT and streamed on WatchTNT in the US
The Match – history
This is the fifth edition of The Match, so what happened in the previous four?
2018: Phil Mickelson beat Tiger at the 22nd hole – Shadow Creek, Las Vegas
2020: Tiger Woods & Peyton Manning beat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady 1up – Medalist GC, Florida
2020: Phil Mickelson & Charles Barkley beat Steph Curry and Peyton Manning 4 and 3 – Stone Canyon GC, Arizona
2021: Bryson DeChambeau and Aaron Rodgers beat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady 3 and 2 – The Reserve at Moonlight Basin, Montana
Koepka has been struggling of late. Since the Ryder Cup his form reads: 67-38-MC-MC. The missed cuts came at Mayakoba and in the Texas Open.
At the Ryder Cup he won 2pts from his four matches, scoring a 2&1 win over Bernd Wiesberger in the singles.
DeChambeau hasn’t played since the Ryder Cup where he banked 2.5pts out of three and won his singles against Sergio Garcia.
That’s quite a break although the last time he had a long gap between events – November’s 2020 Masters to January 2021’s Sentry Tournament of Champions – he finished tied seventh in the season-opening Hawaii event, posting a 4-under 69 in round one.
Koepka performed poorly in the two recent Las Vegas events, finishing 67th in the Shriners Children’s Open and 38th in the limited field CJ Cup.
His Nevada form shows: 38-67-28-MC-2-MC-4-MC
The two strong performances – second and fourth – came in the 2014 and 2016 Shriners at TPC Summerlin – a resort course like Friday’s venue, The Wynn – while it’s also worth noting he has two wins in the Arizona desert after capturing the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015 and 2021.
DeChambeau’s Vegas form is excellent.
It all comes from the Shriners and his five starts include a win (2018), a fourth (2019), a seventh (2017) and an eighth (2020).
He also won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2019.
So who wins?
It’s easy to throw our hands up and say ‘absolutely no idea’ given the 12-hole format.
Or perhaps the smart move in something as random as this is just to back the underdog, in this case Koepka at 2.1411/10. Such a strategy worked when Mickelson beat Woods.
Looking at the build-up on their Twitter timelines, it’s basically contrived nonsense and an excuse to advertise various golf-related products.
And yet just maybe that helps me make a decision.
There did seem a time when the feud was genuine and that DeChambeau was rather uneasy about it. Had it been played in the thick of that, I would have sided with Koepka.
Now that it all seems fluff and fakery, DeChambeau may just enjoy the pantomime more.
Koepka’s record in majors shows that he can focus better than anyone in the game (bar Tiger and maybe Morikawa) when he’s genuinely into something rather than doing it for publicity.
Perhaps bashing Bryson up was high on the list a while ago but I don’t think it is now.
I’m probably overthinking this now but, getting back to golf, DeChambeau has the slightly better credentials so he’s the pick at 1.845/6.
He’s more reliable in the desert, a fractionally faster starter when checking R1 scoring average and, in the relatively few times they’ve been partnered, he’s shot the lowest score twice to Koepka’s once (one tie).
Koepka’s current form is iffy and I just think the timing of the match suits DeChambeau better.
So, sit back and, erm, enjoy the ‘show’.