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Monday, December 5, 2022

A feud fueled by social media is also ripe for the television screen

The fifth episode of “The Match” was released on Black Friday, an unofficial American holiday devoted to commercialism and being sold to. It seemed like a fitting time to release the episode on this day. This made-for-TV series of golf matches began three years ago with the star power of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and has since expanded to include athletes from other sports, including football and basketball, as well as golf. Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, two major title winners who have been embroiled in one of golf’s most public battles, were among those targeted this time.

Following a widely publicised summer dispute that took place mostly on social media and that fans hoped would spill over onto the course, the two met on the course. However, the two had never played together in a major championship or a PGA Tour event before, which is why this lower-stakes 12-hole match at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas was organised.

Friday afternoon, Koepka addressed the TNT broadcast crew on the third tee, “This is the moment that the world has been waiting for.” Later, Koepka, a consistent performer in the major championships, said that the match felt “a little bit like my major right now,” after hitting a perfect approach shot to seal up the match with a 4 and 3 victory on the ninth hole. In fact, there were no serious tensions or true clashes of personalities; instead, there were the typical niceties, light encouragements, and cordial exchanges that come with a golf game.

Within the smaller golf audience, the disagreement was a source of occasional drama and constant humour. It gained a considerably broader audience this year when video of Koepka’s conversation with the Golf Channel from the P.G.A. Championship in May was released on Twitter and quickly went viral. As an oblivious DeChambeau noisily goes by in his metal spikes, Koepka loses his line of thought and lets loose a torrent of expletives, which can be seen in the footage. Before it was taken down, the video had received more than 10 million views on Twitter, and the picture of Koepka’s annoyed eye-rolling quickly became a meme.

DeChambeau went on to say that one possible explanation for Koepka’s motivation might be the fact that he is a beneficiary of the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program. Based on a variety of factors, including popularity in Google searches, the programme pays a $40 million bonus pool to ten participants each year. The animosity, as well as Koepka’s specific remarks and social media methods, undoubtedly helped to raise the reputations of both players this year.

The lead-up to this match saw Koepka express his hatred for his opponent, telling the media that he “hasn’t really liked him” for “like ten times.” “I’ve never really liked him,” Koepka remarked of his opponent. Though the match was a made-for-television production with several commercial interruptions, there was a true hatred and frustration there, even if it seemed like a reductionist effort to demonstrate and resolve it.

This week’s match had a number of charity components, and the total series of matches had contributed more than $30 million to different organisations prior to this week’s edition. This, on the other hand, was a more commercial venture, built on a competitive beef. The site, a beautiful green golf course with magnificent man-made waterfalls set away from the Las Vegas Strip in the midst of the desert, was an appropriate setting for this event. A variety of one-liners and events from their conflict were branded on Koepka’s cart, which was also decorated with the logo of his beer sponsor. There were challenges for the closest-to-the-hole side sponsored by a sports book, a private jet company, an automotive business, and a recruitment agency, as well as a long-drive challenge sponsored by a financial institution.

At Bethpage, Koepka won his fourth major championship of the season. DeChambeau, who went away disappointed, would shortly undergo a total bodily makeover that would propel him to the top of the PGA Tour’s driving distance leaderboard for the previous two years and to the U.S. Open title at Winged Foot in New York last autumn.

Although the match was far from the crucible of a major championship that both players have experienced, Koepka will walk away with some type of bragging rights that will almost surely generate additional social media fodder in the future.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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