The Match: A Calming Sanctuary for Rodgers & DeChambeau
Not many athletes have carried the baggage of Aaron Rodgers and Bryson DeChambeau this summer. In late April, Rodgers told members of the Green Bay Packers that he did not want to return to the franchise that has been his lone home since 2005. Meanwhile, DeChambeau made headlines last week after breaking up with his longtime caddie before the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Neither has spoken publicly about their issues. On Tuesday, they were perfect teammates. With the picturesque Moonlight Basin in Montana as the backdrop, Rodgers and DeChambeau decisively won the fourth edition of “The Match” over Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson. The match-play, made-for-TV Golf event helped raise over $2.6 million for charity and donate 6.3 million meals while also providing relief to the two victors in clear search of solace. Much has been made about The Scientist and the recent Jeopardy! host, but the former Bear and Mustang found peace in Big Sky Country.
Here are my takeaways from The Match:
Rodgers Competitive Spirit Flared, His Game and Farce Followed
Before The Match, Rodgers said he had not practiced or played much golf at all. It showed through the first four holes, getting little lift on any of his shots. After his third tee shot, you could hear him softly mutter, “I can’t get the ball up the f****** hill.” DeChambeau made up for the slow start with a bevy of bombs, before Rodgers picked it up at the fifth hole. On a 248-yard par 3, Rodgers stuck one within 10 feet of the hole, which drew his first smile of the day. Coincidentally, but perhaps predictably, Rodgers’ sense of humor also improved, joking with DeChambeau and sending clever jabs at Brady and especially Mickelson. Mickelson had his left hand taped for The Match because of a self-described “owie” so, on the sixth hole, Rodgers calmly told him he looked like a “1980s Gold’s Gym bodybuilder.” Rodgers and DeChambeau won that hole and never lost the lead.
Bryson May Be a Scientist, But He is Not a Trash-Talker
At 7,500 feet above sea level, everyone expected to DeChambeau to hit deliver some moonshots. He did so, consistently exploiting the elevation to get an extra 15% on his drives. On the eighth hole, a 777-yard par 5 with a 280-foot drop, DeChambeau launched a 480-yard tee shot. It was the longest unofficial drive of his career (his longest tour drive is 423 yards). While he had no trouble bombing or chipping — he sunk a 30-yard one to open the round — DeChambeau could not hold a candle in the arena of verbal jousting. DeChambeau’s rebuttals to Brady and Mickelson mocking his slowly calculated strokes were scripted and fell flat. When a native brown bear was spotted on the course, DeChambeau twice said he could wrestle it, both times looking for a laugh. Both times he was only met by crickets. However, one piece of information he did elaborate on was his unique dieting habits, specifically during a round. DeChambeau inhaled an undisclosed amount of protein bars during The Match but revealed he tries to consume roughly 3,000 calories during a day on tour. So, who knows, maybe he can take on a bear. Just as long as he is not required to trash-talk it first.
Football Was King
Between Brady and Rodgers, The Match had more than enough star power from the gridiron. But the football player who stole the show was none other than Rob Gronkowski. Calling into The Match from his nephew’s little league game, Gronkowski drew the best out of both quarterbacks. He extracted the second smile of the day out of Rodgers with a “what’s up maaaan” and got Brady to crack a decent joke about how the only thing slower than DeChambeau’s pace of play was Brady’s 40-yard dash time. Gronkowski then asked Brady about playing Golf against NFL competition to which the reigning Super Bowl champion responded, “I’m out here with the leader of the Packers, I think.” That later prompted the play-by-play man Brian Anderson to ask Rodgers if he was planning on being there for Green Bay’s opening game on September 12. Rodgers slyly smiled and responded, “we’ll see.” As always, Gronk stirred the pot for our entertainment.
Cheers For Charity
The Match not only did a fantastic job of raising $2.6 million for My Brother’s Keeper, an extension of the Obama Foundation, and donating 6.3 million meals to Feeding America, but also in shining a spotlight on each organization. During the preshow, host Kevin Frazier explained the event’s connection to the Montana Food Bank Network and how the pandemic had impacted communities in the surrounding areas. Analysts Charles Barkley and Trevor Immelman donated over 1 million meals by themselves, while Mickelson, impressively, nailed 15 consecutive 10-foot putts in 30 seconds to chip in an extra 150,000 meals (10K for each made putt). Frazier also featured a group of five young men from the My Brother’s Keeper program in Chicago, who all worked for weeks to help prepare the event. Later on, Barack Obama joined the program to discuss the importance of exposing minorities to new opportunities, mentoring them, and helping create new experiences in preparation for a successful career.
You can find the links to donate to either (preferably both) here:
— Feeding America —
Yin and Yang
On the surface, Rodgers’ laissez-faire disposition and DeChambeau’s systematic demeanor do not seem compatible. Rodgers showed up looking like he recently went on a month-long fly-fishing trip and DeChambeau walked to the first tee box like he came straight from US Army basic training. On the 15th hole, Rodgers tried to bring the zen out of his partner, telling DeChambeau jokingly to “look at the trees, the sun through the clouds, activate your heart chakra, just lay down in the grass.” DeChambeau responded by clubbing a 200-foot shot, from the rough, to within 15 feet of the hole. Before Rodgers took the ensuing putt, DeChambeau thoroughly explained the green’s grade, expected break, and which corner of the hole to aim. Rodgers followed his partners’ instruction and drained the 12-footer with ease. Together, the accomplished and passionate pair made easy work of their opponents. Mickelson and Brady had competed in each of the previous three editions of The Match, but the newcomers walked away winners. Both entered the afternoon with various distractions and ended looking like their issues were far behind them. By themselves, Rodgers and DeChambeau are matters of contention, but as teammates, they were complementary solutions.