It was an odd Sunday afternoon without fans, wild weather, and two legendary quarterbacks also playing roles in the outcome, but in the end, it was a familiar sight: Tiger Woods in red, victorious.
The Match: Champions for Charity came down to the par-4 18th at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., Woods’ home course, and it was Woods who lagged a 40-foot birdie try up to a foot to seal the 1-up victory for he and his partner, Peyton Manning, over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady.
It was a marked improvement on The Match, a glorified hit-and-giggle that took place back in 2018 in Las Vegas between Woods and Mickelson (Mickelson won in extra holes and took $9-million in the process).
This time it was a foursome, and the group raised more than $20-million for COVID-19 relief efforts. And, the group exceeded the expectations of so many for what fun match-ups can look like.
The two-man teams played best ball for the first nine holes (each team member played his own ball, and the lower of the two scores counted for that hole). Woods/Manning were 3-up through nine. On the back nine the teams played a modified alternate shot format (both golfers on a team hit tee shots, and the team picked the best one and from there they hit alternate shots into the hole). Mickelson/Brady managed to trim the lead to just 1-up through 14 holes, but they couldn’t quite get any momentum going and fell by that same score.
There’s no doubt the viewership numbers will be high (it’s live sports in the era of COVID-19, after all) but there’s a plethora of reasons why this match was worth watching.
The golf itself ranged from serious to ridiculous. The banter was enjoyable, with some laugh-out-loud moments. The broadcast team pushed through horrific weather and enhanced what we were seeing on TV. And at the end of the day, it was four of the greatest to ever do it in their sport having fun – something we desperately need to see these days.
Here are the highlights.
Woods answers doubts about health
There were lots of questions around Woods leading into Sunday’s matchup. We’ve seen him on various broadcasts over the last couple of months – a highlight being the re-living of the 2019 Masters in April – but he hasn’t actually swung a club at a PGA Tour event since February due to a wonky back.
Woods laid all those questions to rest with a clinical performance Sunday at his home club.
He did not miss a fairway Sunday. He was completely dialed. And when it was winning time, he didn’t say a word. The niceties ended around the 12th hole for Woods, who knew that he couldn’t let Mickelson beat him, again, in this format.
Woods and Manning won the day, but the real winners were golf fans everywhere – you can breathe easy knowing when Woods decides to tee it up on the PGA Tour again he’ll be ready to go.
Golf coverage has taken its share of hits over the last couple of years as many on social media have made it known that there are too many commercials, the product is over-produced, and the viewers aren’t getting anything from the announcers.
The opposite was true on Sunday.
It was a skeleton production crew, with reason, but the voices – even Charles Barkley –who were part of things were important and reasoned.
Brian Anderson did a fabulous job leading the broadcast (Anderson is the broadcaster of the Milwaukee Brewers) navigating multiple call-in guests and technical issues with the rain pouring down all afternoon.
Barkley’s everyman hilarity shined through well. Amanda Balionis and Trevor Immelman are full-time and they were perfect in their roles Sunday. Immelman, the 2008 Masters winner and CBS analyst even helped Tom Brady with a ruling at one point. Balionis, who does the interviews on CBS’ broadcasts, was a natural in her role as well – bringing up relevant stories and asking the right questions. And when the broadcasters let the actual players talk (they were all mic’d up) it was informative and interesting.
The highlight of the broadcast, however, was Justin Thomas.
Thomas, the fourth-ranked golfer in the world, is good friends with Woods and is also a member at Medalist. He added in an idyllic mix of humour and analysis and only when needed – he didn’t talk too much or too little, didn’t need many prompts, and will be a great addition to any broadcast crew (in about 20 years after his hall-of-fame career finishes).
Manning and Brady deliver
Manning nearly made an ace! Brady dunked one from the fairway!
The guys did their best – and when paired with the biggest rivals in golf over the last two decades, that’s all we could have asked for.
It was a horrible start for Brady, who was playing military-march golf (left, right, left, right, off the tee) but then, well, golf happened. He hit a majestic approach on No. 8 that spun back into the hole – and then proceeded to rip his pants on the backside when bending over to pick up the ball from the cup. He also added in a long eagle putt from off the green on the back nine. You have to hand it to him, as it looked like he didn’t want to be out there sometimes (“They cancel football games in this weather,” he said on the broadcast at one point) but he never quit.
Manning, meanwhile, was as steady as he used to be on the field. He hit it to 17 inches on the final par-3 of the day (with a $25-million donation on the line for a hole-in-one) and had, earlier in the day, nailed a lengthy birdie putt.
It was no surprise Manning played better than Brady – he has been retired for a few years, after all – but the addition of the two quarterbacks was a solid choice.
Up next? Hopefully we see Michael Jordan in there with another golf-loving basketball star. Perhaps Steph Curry? Curry has played in a Korn Ferry Tour event before and has a California connection like Mickelson.
Overall the back-and-forth from the golfers was much better this time around than just Tiger vs. Phil in 2018. Woods clammed up a bit then, and again Sunday, while Mickelson was his usual chatty self. That said the addition of the two non-golfing quarterbacks was great for comedic relief and to keep the conversation going.
A few standouts:
“I can’t putt with all this crowd noise I have to deal with” (Peyton Manning on listening to all the broadcasters in his ear-piece).
“That might be in the fairway… over on 7” (Tiger Woods to Tom Brady who blew his tee-shot so far right it ended up a few holes over).
“When’s the heavy stuff going to come” (Tom Brady on the back nine, quoting Caddyshack when it was really, really raining).
“…The delayed sauce” (Phil Mickelson after describing what helped a green-side chip end up inches from the hole).