“Tough to draw it out of the bark,” Phil Mickelson said, just before Bryson DeChambeau took his second shot of The Match in Las Vegas, and that was not nearly the weirdest thing that was done or said on the first hole of the 12-hole showdown between DeChambeau and his tormentor, Brooks Koepka.
It started immediately, on the first tee, when DeChambeau passed around a half-dozen “Brooks Koepka cupcakes” to the gallery. Why were they called that? We don’t know, because the camera never showed them—presumably they had his face on them, or something, and presumably also there was a pun with “Koepka” and “cupcakes.”
The crowd laughed, much like you and your family laugh politely when your awkward uncle takes six minutes to tell a bad joke at Thanksgiving dinner. For his part, Koepka put his white glove to his mouth, “smiled” (note: menacing quarter-grin) and gave off the air of someone who wishes that assault was legal.
This was quickly followed by Mickelson urging DeChambeau to “make a statement” with his first drive. Instead, the longest man on the PGA Tour pushed it right across a cart path, into some mulch, and eventually into a bush.
“Toed it, but it should be all right,” he said.
Koepka, who seemed to have made the bold choice not to even attempt to be entertaining, mumbled “it’ll be fun,” and hit a mediocre drive of his own.
On the cart ride down, Mickelson made a point to ask DeChambeau about the two drivers in his bag, which quickly became a Laurel & Hardy routine where they trashed the USGA for the new driver regulations. When you’re in Vegas with three hours of air to fill, you might as well grind every axe in your, uh … bag of axes.
DeChambeau allowed that he might have gone a bit right with his drive, which gave us our first Charles Barkley burn: “That’s an understatement.”
“Do you feel that hitting bombs like that is attractive, makes you feel physically more attractive?” Mickelson asked, in what we pray is the most uncomfortable interaction of the entire match.
“Oh, very,” DeChambeau said. “It’s hot.”
“Yeah, same,” Phil said. “I totally get it.”
Attempting to give the players equal time, Mickelson moved on to Koepka, asking him “what is your mindset?” and “what sort of statement are you trying to make?” (And proving that he could enter the media tent tomorrow and fit right in.)
Koepka, perhaps feeling that he had overdone it with his three-word grumble on the tee, declined to answer.
While the players contemplated their second shot, Barkley set Mickelson up to complain some more about the USGA driver rule; an opportunity he gleefully took.
What we needed badly at this point was a rules controversy, and we got one when DeChambeau took relief from inside the bushes because there was a sprinkler system somewhere. Mickelson made a “Caddyshack” reference, DeChambeau hit into the bunker (“tough to draw it out of the bark”), had to tell Mickelson to pipe down so he could actually hit his shot—”oh, you can still hear me?” Mickelson insulted his ensuing sand shot, and we learned that DeChambeau and Justin Thomas have short-game banter, and both players made par to halve the hole, and Barkley let us know that “gambling only works when you’re winning.”
Just before breaking away, Koepka was asked about his brother Chase working as his caddie, and said, “he’s playing…he’s trying to play.” Which is maybe a little rough after Chase went 77-80 in his last PGA Tour event at the Houston Open. But hey, it’s content baby!
In all, that one hole was awkward, funny, painfully unfunny, interesting, dull, and, we must grudgingly admit, semi-compelling. Eleven more to go!