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At Hero World Challenge, Bryson DeChambeau Puts Vegas in Rearview Mirror

A second-round 64 has the 28-year-old leading in the Bahamas and distancing himself from the lopsided loss to Brooks Koepka in The Match last week.
Bryson DeChambeau, Round 1, 2021 British Open

Bryson DeChambeau sits at 11-under-par 133 heading into the weekend. 

Finally, there is proof. What happens in Las Vegas really does stay in Las Vegas. At least where Bryson DeChambeau is concerned.

To explain: Last week, DeChambeau was in Vegas, playing The Match against his media magnified rival, Brooks Koepka. “Playing” is an operative term because, in truth, he wasn’t competing. The head-to-head battle was supposed to last 12 holes. As it turned out, only nine were necessary. DeChambeau did not win a single hole and conceded the lopsided affair with three holes remaining.

That was then, in Vegas. This week, DeChambeau is in the Bahamas, competing in the Hero World Challenge. And “competing” is the operative term because, fortunately for the 2020 U.S. Open winner, the game he featured in Vegas stayed there.

The game he has in the Bahamas has produced 16 birdies over the initial 36 holes. After an 8-under-par 64 on Friday, the 28-year old DeChambeau will go to Round Three setting the pace for the elite field of 20 players, 11-under par.

If not for two double-bogeys along the way — one each day — he would enjoy more separation. DeChambeau’s first missed green of the second round resulted in a double bogey at No. 16. Moreover, it created a four-shot swivel.

At the same time DeChambeau was putting double boxes on his card, Collin Morikawa was drawing double circles. His eagle at No. 15 catapulted the reigning British Open champ from a three-shot deficit to a one-shot lead.

And keep in mind Morikawa has a lot to play for this week. On Tuesday, he got engaged to his girlfriend, Katherine Zhu and, after all, weddings are expensive. The Hero’s $1 million first-place money might buy a lot of cake. What’s more, with a win, the 24-year old Morikawa would jump Jon Rahm for the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

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But this was not Vegas, and DeChambeau was not conceding. The burly bomber rebounded with a birdie at No. 17, then made par on the difficult No. 18 to hold ground. Meanwhile, Morikawa backed up with a couple of squirrelly shots, suffering a bogey at 18. His 66 left him at 10-under for the event, one shot back.

As a result, the two will be together in the final tee time on Saturday, which promises quite a contrast. DeChambeau is the game’s longest hitter, averaging more than 320 yards off the tee. Morikawa ranked 112th in Driving Distance last season. But he is widely regarded as one of the game’s premier iron-players. The duel will have David and Goliath characteristics.

“There hasn't been one style of golf that has won every tournament out here, right?” Morikawa said. “Look, Bryson's changing the game and he's doing what he thinks is going to help and I'm doing what I think is going to help.

“I think when it comes down to it, you know, who's going to put the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes and we're all trying to figure that out.”

While a Morikawa-DeChambeau bout is fascinating, the matchup was nearly even more compelling. Carding a second-round 67, Koepka also settled at 10 under for the championship. Had he birdied one of his final three holes, he would have tied for the lead and been in the Saturday soiree with DeChambeau. Instead, Koepka plays with Tony Finau, also 10 under, in the second-to-last time.

With Koepka still out on the course, DeChambeau was asked about the possibility of a sequel to last week. He had a simple response, “Sweet.”

Of course, a possible rematch of The Match remains in play for Sunday’s final round. But as far as the 31-year old Koepka is concerned, it’s irrelevant. There are no mulligans.

“No, I don't give any thought to it,” said Koepka, a four-time major championship winner. “Because there should be no Part 2. I mean, I won the online battle, he can't trash talk. And I've won the golf. So 2-0, it's tough to come back from.”

In other words, at least where Koepka is concerned, what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t stay in Las Vegas.