What’s better than a heads up match between two storied rivals? A heads up match between two pairs of rivals; the best of the last 25 years at what they do. Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning taking on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady at the Medalist course in Hobe Sound, Florida. As a golfer myself, I am definitely predisposed to loving this idea. But on Sunday evening with American under quarantine and essentially held captive without sports, they were forced to watch a golf match and guess what? They liked it, HEY MIKEY!
The golf exhibition as spectacle goes back 100-years in this country as Babe Ruth and Babe Didrikson-Zaharias would join up with pros to draw fans to local golf courses across the country. Recently (see last weekend’s Taylormade match which featured the top players in the world and was met with a collective yawn) these golf specials haven’t attracted the casual fan.
Take “The Match” in 2018 between Tiger and Phil at Shadow Creek. The action was great, but nobody knew how to watch the “pay-per view” attraction. The casual viewer doesn’t want to watch the best players, they want to watch the players they know. Casual fans don’t care who the number one golfer in the world is right now, they want familiar. Casual fans would be more likely to watch Jack Nicklaus play one of these matches than Rory McIlroy.
The Match 2 was such a compelling concept because we’d get to see Brady and Manning out of their element. I’ve heard for years about TB12’s golf exploits, but besides a few highlights from Pebble Beach I’ve never seen him really play. On Sunday, we got the chance and for the first 6 holes, Brady was horrible. Beyond horrible, he didn’t hit grass off the tee through the first 5 holes. Not the green. Any GRASS!
The entire endeavor looked like a dud (the pouring rain and wet conditions didn’t help anybody) until #7. Charles Barkley had been giving Brady all kinds of guff over his cross country play early and even pro Brooks Koepka tweeted in to bet Brady $100,000 to Covid relief, that Brady wouldn’t make a par on the front 9. Then Tom Brady, after getting an earful from Barkley promptly holed out from the fairway for birdie. (Then said “Take a suck at that, Chuck!”)
The golf improved, Brady found his legs, made a big putt, but ultimately Manning was more impressive by besting Mickelson and Brady on the par 3, 16th hole. With Phil and Tom within 8 feet from the pin, Manning stuffed an iron inside of 3 feet and effectively ended the match. (Side note, the course reporter for the round was Major champion Justin Thomas. Thomas is apparently best friends with everybody and after this event I can see why. After Barkley went on a soliloquy about how he’ll never forget how to dunk a basketball, JT responded with “Chuck, I’d love to see your fat a$$ try and dunk a basketball right now.” The jab of the round, Chuck is the perfect foil.)
This was an incredibly entertaining show, my one improvement would be to have the group play alternate shot for the entire match and not just the back 9, which might ease some of the pain and nerves of the quarterbacks. Tiger played very well, Phil hit Phil shots and called things “tasty, sauced and salty”. Tom called Phil “Baby” and Manning “Pey-dirt”. Manning changed hats every 2 holes to represent another city or state. (I’m pretty sure his only sponsors are boards of tourism.)
Phil and Tiger only called the legendary quarterbacks “pardner” over and over again. (It’s a golf thing, as soon as any two golfers are paired up they cease using names and can only refer to each either as “Pards” or “Pardner”. We essentially become cowboys, riding the fairways, avoiding the bogey dust of bunkers and riding our flat sticks to victory.)
I hope we see a rematch next Memorial Day weekend. Maybe mix up the teams, Brady and Tiger vs Phil and Peyton? In the end, the event raised $20 million for Covid-19 relief and that is what is most important.
It was nice to have sports back, if only for an afternoon. The creativity of the idea and the entertaining execution of the event represents making the best out of a bad situation.
By Sterling Pingree