When people asked me about Capital One’s “The Match” between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, which was played on the Tom Fazio-design Wynn course in Fabulous Las Vegas, most people wanted to know whether the feud between the two was real or hype.
Well, after witnessing the 12-hole — check that — 9-hole match played in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip live and in person, the answer is that it is much more real than hype.
Koepka took apart Bryson 4&3 (or maybe 5&3) to earn lifelong bragging rights, and a couple of behind-the-scenes moments were clues that the animosity was legit.
Clue #1 – While Koepka and DeChambeau awaited the presentation of the winning bracelet and final interview, they stood on either side of on course reporter Amanda Balionis. There wasn’t an ounce of small talk when the cameras weren’t rolling. DeChambeau appeared dejected while “Brooksy” put off a deeply-satisfied vibe.
Clue #2 – According to a person who had access to the two prior to the match, Koepka had shared during a quiet moment that he “wanted to beat this guy bad.”
The Match activities kicked off around 11:30 am PST with the somewhat awkward “Brooks & Bryson: Hot Seat Press Conference” presented by Capital One and hosted by comedians Country Club Adjacent. Fans submitted questions while guests in the hospitality looked on as Koepka and DeChambeau answered inquiries ranging from, “How much do you bench?” to “How many holes does a straw have?”
Right in the thick of the Q&A was The Match commentator Phil Mickelson, who appeared bewildered by the goings on and line of questioning. But, as always, Mickelson took advantage of the opportunity to remind everyone that he “was the only one on stage to have won a major in 2021.”
Near the end of the session, Mickelson brought a level of seriousness to the proceedings by saying that he looked forward to getting into the minds of Koepka and DeChambeau during the event because they do things differently, but very successfully, and that the intimacy would hopefully “help us understand their processes.”
Only about 200-300 special guests gained access to the Wynn course to witness the Match live. On-course viewing was limited to certain teeing areas, so a majority of those in attendance spent the afternoon in the hospitality pavilion watching the TNT telecast.
Among the special guests spotted enjoying the action was LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson, who shares the same agent as DeChambeau. It was Thompson’s first trip ever to Las Vegas. She was impressed by the beauty of the Tom Fazio-designed Wynn course and was excited about visiting the city.
Former PGA Tour winner and PGA Tour Champions player Tommy Armour III was also enjoying the action from the hospitality area, which was located on his old stomping grounds. As a kid, Armour III lived on the old Desert Inn course, which was bull dozed in the early 2000s to make room for the Wynn course.
Koepka’s fiance Jena , spent most of her time in the hospitality area and happily posed for photos with fans. At her table were friends and family, including Koepka’s mom, Denise.
While Koepka and DeChambeau don’t appear to agree on much, on display in the hospitality area was the Ryder Cup, which the two helped win for the United States earlier this year. Their hug during the Ryder Cup victory celebration led to speculation that the feud was softening. There was a handshake between the two following The Match, but no hug.
In all, The Match series has raised more than $30 million in support of various charities and initiatives, and has generated more than 10 million meal donations through Feeding America. Donations in 2021 benefited Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour and Feeding America, in addition to DeChambeau’s contribution to the Shriner's Hospitals and Koepka’s donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. A donation of 3.75 million meals to Feeding America kicked off the event.
Koepka grinned from ear to ear while he received congratulations from family and friends on the Wynn’s 18th-hole tee box, a stunning par-3 with a waterfall as a backdrop. It was clear that Team Brooks loved the outcome, and Koepka pretty much couldn’t keep a smile off his face ever since he went 4-up with four holes to play.
The overall champion of the day was the beautiful Wynn course, which was showcased for the world to see. It was in pristine condition and the event was played in perfect weather.