Never let it be said that a good rivalry isn’t good for television ratings.
At least that’s the basic premise behind the fifth edition of Capital One’s The Match this week. For much of the last year, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau and their fans have taken potshots at each other, and the back and forth became so silly at one point that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan actually said fans could get kicked out of Tour events for adding to the vitriol by saying the wrong thing to the wrong player.
Remember, previously The Match was Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, a pretty good rivalry, and then there were amateur partners Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, also long-time rivals. Rivalry stokes the event.
The bad feelings melted away between Koepka and DeChambeau, we are told, during the Ryder Cup, when the golfers actually offered to play together for the good of the team. Then came the news that the two talented and major championship-winning golfers would be the featured attraction in The Match the Friday after Thanksgiving. It will be televised by TNT and TBS at 1 p.m. PT.
In a sense, The Match is just an extension of what golf has always tried to provide — some made-for-television competition between two (or four) players on golf courses that many people will never play or perhaps have never seen. No one will confuse The Match for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, but at least the idea and spirit are similar.
Team USA player Bryson DeChambeau looks over his yardage book on the sixth green during day three singles rounds for the 43rd Ryder Cup.
How much different will The Match V be than the previous matches that relied heavily on Mickelson as a competitor? And what will be the same?
Here are five things to think about before Koepka and DeChambeau tee off:
This is an important difference. Frankly, for all the fun the previous made-for-television events offered, the drama of two golfers going head to head live does tend to disappear somewhere on the back nine as the match heads into a fourth hour. This 12-hole match will be shorter, keep fans interested and make each hole a little more meaningful.
For all the love shown at the Ryder Cup, the two players seem to have resumed their trolling of each other in recent weeks. What can’t be known for sure is if this is a true dislike for one another, or if this is nothing more than the kind of hype you would see before a boxing match? Either way, two things seem sure. First, we’ll hear plenty of banter in this match. Second, no one is going to come to blows over a golf match.
The Match will be played at the Wynn Golf Club just a block off of the strip in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a town built on gambling, and previous matches have seen plenty of talk about live-action gambling during the matches. Whether anyone is actually putting money down on which player will win the seventh hole is questionable, but we’re sure to hear about the odds. Here was the early line on Tipico.
No, Lefty won’t be playing in this match as he has in the past, at least not that we know of before the competition begins. But he will be there as a commentator, a role he continues to show he is well suited for. Will Mickelson’s barbs from the booth have any impact on the match? Will he actually put a club in his hand at some point? It’s Las Vegas, so anything is possible.
One of the things you hear from hard-core golf fans about the previous editions of The Match, with top golfers joined by quarterbacks and basketball players, is that the hard-core fans wouldn’t be caught dead watching such a mere money-grab exhibition. But somebody much be watching, otherwise Capital One wouldn’t keep sponsoring it and TNT wouldn’t keep televising it. And the event does raise some significant money for charity. So unless the ratings drop to zero, you can expect The Match 6 sometime in the near future.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_Bohannan.