In 'The Match,' DeChambeau, Mickelson avoid Detroit drama, not slow play
Bryson DeChambeau didn't have a caddie — nobody did, actually — and Phil Mickelson didn't have a bone to pick. Two of the biggest stars in golf moved on quickly from the drama in Detroit.
DeChambeau and Mickelson played "The Match," the latest made-for-TV exhibition, and talked plenty of smack, but they stayed mostly clear of the issues that drew the biggest headlines during Rocket Mortgage Classic week: DeChambeau's split with long-time caddie Tim Tucker, and Mickelson's feud with the media over a gambling-past story he didn't deny, but also didn't appreciate.
"Too much fun," Mickelson said during Tuesday night's match in Big Sky, Montana, before DeChambeau and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made quick work (by holes, certainly not time) of Mickelson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
DeChambeau and Rodgers won, 3 and 2, when Rodgers made an 8-footer for birdie at the 16th hole to close the match — after dismissing DeChambeau's read as wrong. Rodgers stole the show with some booming drives, great putts and some excellently timed dry humor. He also seemed to be the only player cognizant of how slow the group was playing. At one point, he looked at his watch. Admittedly, he wanted to catch the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Finals game against the Phoenix Suns, which was in the fourth quarter by the time "The Match" came to an end shortly before 11 p.m. Eastern (it started just after 5:30).
It took nearly three hours for the group to play the front nine alone, longer than Mickelson took to play his third round at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, when he was first out Saturday and played as a solo.
And interestingly, it wasn't DeChambeau who was the slow one in the group. Slow play has been a knock on him for years, and was the foundation of his feud with Brooks Koepka. It was mostly Mickelson and Brady who were deliberate. It didn't help them much.
"Football is way easier than golf," Brady said at one point.
The banter was good, as it always is at these matches.
They needled Rodgers about what team he will play for next year.
"The leader of the Pack," said Brady, "I think."
Sorry, no clues from Rodgers.
Mickelson, who likes to hit bombs and still does hit bombs, even at 51, bemoaned not being able to keep up with DeChambeau, 24 years his junior, off the tee on the 777-yard, par-5 eighth hole at The Reserve at Moonlight Basin. The Jack Nicklaus gem was the real star of the show.
"I'm so defeated," said Mickelson, though he did win a long-drive hole, but only because DeChambeau missed the fairway.
And, of course, TNT's Charles Barkley was great, poking Mickelson for dumping him after their last match, a win over Peyton Manning and Steph Curry. On one wayward Brady shot, Barkley said, "And I got fired."
Mickelson tried to smooth things over, telling Barkley he was the most-handsome partner he's had in the series of "The Match," which is at three and counting, with Mickelson playing in all of them.
Barkley hilariously disagreed.
"That Tom Brady is a pretty man," he said. "I made the mistake of looking in his eyes once."
Larry Fitzgerald, the NFL wide receiver and golf enthusiast who was also in Detroit to participate in the AREA 3-1-3 celebrity shootout, has a future career in broadcasting, if he wants it, down to the hush in his voice.
President Barack Obama joined the show, as did Wayne Gretzky, Rob Gronkowski and Baker Mayfield. They were all entertaining, to some degree, Mayfield mostly for whatever the heck he was wearing.
The scenery was most amazing, especially the wildlife shots of bears, moose, foxes and goats.
As for the golf, it was predictably all over the place, as it can be in a modified alternate-shot format — and especially on the fun one-club challenge, which led to a pair of double-bogeys. We've never seen Rodgers' game up-close, and it was impressive — as was his mimicking of Mickelson's trademark thumbs-up and toothy smile. We've seen Brady's, and it was a mixed bag like last time, though he did drive a par 4 with DeChambeau already in there close, which was darn cool. Mickelson and DeChambeau flirted with aces.
Mickelson's always the star of these matches, first him vs. Tiger Woods, then Mickelson-Brady against Woods-Manning, then Mickelson-Barkley against Curry-Manning. He's the ultimate trash talker.
But DeChambeau surprised us, letting his personality shine through (he made fun of himself and his slow-play image, for one), which was refreshing. He lacked that humor last week in Detroit, when the defending RMC champion and current Rocket Mortgage pitchman missed the cut and bolted without speaking to the media. Explanations he provided on the greens were fascinating.
As much as everyone wanted to win — the banter was heaviest on the front nine — things seemed to get more quiet and serious on the back. Most importantly, the event raised millions for charity. Mickelson pledged $100,000 himself. He just gave $100,000 last week to the Detroit Children's Fund, the first random act of kindness to kick off Mickelson's challenge to Detroit — get 50,000 signatures, and those 50,000 do one random act of kindness, then he'll come back to the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2022.
The petition had just over 12,000 signatures on Tuesday night, a slow but steady pace.
Unlike "The Match," which was just slow.
We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.