BOB WEST ON GOLF — Tiger/Phil, Manning/Brady delivered big time
Given the perfect storm of the moment, it probably should not come as much of a surprise that Turner Sports set an all-time cable TV ratings record for Sunday afternoon’s “The Match: Champions for Charity” at The Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, Florida.
With no other live sports competition, and the star power of an exhibition pitting Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning against the duo of Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady, this was a slam-dunk. Still, it exceeded expectations with an average viewership of 5.8 million and a peak segment of 6.3
Prior to Sunday, the all-time biggest viewing audience on cable was the 5.4 million for the first round of the 2010 Masters on ESPN. The ratings number for The Match even exceeded the final round of two majors last year — the PGA and the British Open.
Even periods of heavy rain could not put a damper on an event whose entertainment value far surpassed previous made-for-TV golf telecasts. Though there was some bad golf at times, there were plenty of qualify shots, many memorable moments and considerable humor.
Best of all, $20 million was raised for COVID-19 charities. Raising money for charity has long been one of the things professional golf has done best, and this event stands at the top of the mountain.
You can bet the wheels are already spinning for an encore next year built around Woods and Mickelson.
The PGA Tour arch-rivals, you may remember, went head to head in 2019 at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas in a match that was easily forgettable and highly criticized. Much was learned, however, starting with the idea of adding two of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time into the mix.
Both made significant contributions with their golf and their humor, although early on Brady looked more like an 18-handicap than the 8.1 he claims to be. Harassed and needled for his poor play through six holes, the six-time Super Bowl winner responded by authoring the shot of the day when he holed a wedge from 140 yards for a birdie.
Only minutes earlier, Brooks Koepka had put up a tweet saying he’d donate $100,000 to charity if Brady could manage a par on the front nine. Charles Barkley, who couldn’t break 100 with a pencil, piped up from the announcing booth that he’d be willing to give Brady shots.
As soon as his ball spun into the cup, Brady, who like everybody involved was miked up, said “Suck on that, Chuck,” and followed with “how about that, Brooks.”
So it went throughout a rainy afternoon that saw what looked like a rout for the Tiger/Manning team go to the final hole and a 1-up victory. The match probably would have gone extra holes and into darkness had Manning, whose handicap index is 6.4, not stroked his tee shot to 17 inches for birdie on the par 3, 16th.
As for the humor, there were too many funny lines to recount in the space available. It’s fair to say all involved delivered some serious zingers, with Manning and Mickelson probably getting in the best shots.
It was hilarious when the former Colts and Broncos QB, referring to a pair of Giants-Patriots Super Bowls, said he thought about bringing brother Eli as a caddie because he always beat Brady. He said he also considered Patriots coach Bill Belichick because he’d get in Brady’s head.
Real golf, meanwhile, returns two weeks from Thursday, albeit without galleries. Until then, The Match will have provided considerable food for thought and conversation, including who to pair up with Woods and Mickelson in 2021.
The early favorite would be Michael Jordan with Tiger and Tony Romo with Mickelson. However, Golden State star Steph Curry, a scratch golfer, is already campaigning for a spot.
No matter who it is, they will have a tough act to follow.
Golf news should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob West’s column is sponsored by 5 Under Golf Center.
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