On the day after Thanksgiving, golf’s Biggest Rivals™ will make a
vain attempt to settle their differences in a 12-hole, pay-per-view,
made-for-TV showdown in Las Vegas. Emphasis on the word vain.
If the accoutrements to the denouement to Bryson/Brooks – or is it
Brooks/Bryson? – feel grubby, questionable and somewhat manufactured,
that’s because they are.
“The Match V”, to give it due respect, is more X-Factor than Squid
Game, a contrived, meaningless exhibition trading on a rivalry hitherto
comprised of eye-rolling, social media taunts and free beer.
Burr-Hamilton, this is not.
Quite apart from the horrendously selfish timing of the announcement,
a matter of hours after the LPGA announced significant and laudable
changes to one of the women’s game’s major championships, this utter
distraction of an “event” demonstrates that which we already knew.
That everybody and everything has a price.
When evidence of enmity between the two players resurfaced in May at
the US PGA Championship, our jaws collectively dropped because it was
real. The animosity was authentic.
Within days, it became less compelling. The social media back and
forth the two engaged in felt coordinated, prompting suggestions of
collusion between the two players. The allegation was that their rivalry
was, in fact, nothing more than an opportunistic, cynical attempt to
claim the lion’s share of the Player Impact Program bounty. A plausible
theory but one that became less likely as the summer went on. He might
look like Josh Brolin but Brooks ain’t that good an actor.
As Koepka warmed into the role of Antagonist-in-Chief, DeChambeau
started a slow but unmistakable retreat. The more he did, the louder the
heckles got. Fans baited him with highly-imaginative,
passive-aggressive calls of ‘Brooksy’ – and Bryson bit.
The more he did, the worse it got, culminating in an ugly exchange
between DeChambeau and a spectator at the BMW Championship in September.
That was followed in short order by the PGA Tour publishing
updates to its code of conduct for spectators. In short: call Bryson
‘Brooksy’ one more time and you’ll regret it.
More recently, the temperature lowered when the pair were filmed – by
multiple cameras that just so happened to be in the right place at the
right time – talking (gasp!) on the driving range at the Ryder Cup.
Then, in scenes reminiscent of the end of Top Gun, they hugged
it out during the winning US side’s jubilant press conference. “You can
be my wingman any time” etc. Had the presser gone on any longer, they
may well have ended up stripping down to their shorts for a game of
Little did we know the stage was being prepared for this: the fifth instalment of a match nobody asked for.
There is, of course, a good reason that film franchises tend not to
make it to a fifth movie. It’s because they tend to have exhausted all
ground by that point. Of those that have, none reside in the pantheon of
cinema’s greatest. Fast Five, Final Destination 5, A Good Day to Die Hard, Dragonheart: Vengeance, Ice Age: Collision Course – who can remember any of these ‘classics’? Even Rocky V felt like a bout too far, TIME magazine once including it on a list of the 100 worst ideas of the 20th century.
There are so many issues with ‘Brooks-Bryson’ it is hard to know
where to start. The fact it is being played on a course that has no real
repute within golf and in a city that is unapologetically “all about
the money” certainly doesn’t help. Play it at Pebble Beach or St Andrews
and then we’ll talk.
However, there are three really significant issues in play.
One, people have lost interest. This thing was fascinating in May.
It’s now October. People’s attention spans are shorter these days than
they’ve ever been and so much has been written and said about and by the
two men involved. Most golf fans simply have feud fatigue by this
Two, neither is particularly likeable. Watching two wannabe jocks slugging it out over – checks notes – 12 holes of golf and not 12 rounds in the ring seems like a colossal waste of time.
And three, it is an entirely meaningless event. This isn’t a major
championship. It would matter more if they were going down the stretch
at Augusta National each in with a chance of winning The Masters. But
this counts for nothing, and no amount of prepared ad-libs, rehearsed
banter or factory-made drama will change that.
In golf, green jackets matter, Claret Jugs matter, Wanamaker Trophies matter, Jack Nicklaus Gold Medals matter.
This pseudo-reality, lowest-common-denominator, dumbed-down drivel doesn’t.
Or at least it shouldn’t. Because let’s face it, we’ll all watch,
won’t we? Despite our better instincts, we’ll tune in and, in doing so,
give credibility to something devoid and undeserving of it.
We’re suckers. The joke’s on us.
And so it goes.