Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Sunday allowed the pair to compete on a different field: the golf course. In a game raising money for coronavirus relief, Manning and Brady paired with, respectively, golf greats Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for an 18-hole match at Woods’ home course, Medalist Golf Club. While Woods and Manning ultimately won the event by one hole, the real victors are sports fans everywhere, who were able to enjoy televised sports once again.
The game, titled “The Match II: Champions for Charity,” was a rematch of the 2018 one-on-one game between Mickelson and Woods, in which Mickelson prevailed in 22 holes, including four playoff holes. While 2018’s unofficial PGA Tour event earned Mickelson a $9 million prize, the money this year went to COVID-19 relief, ultimately raising $20 million.
With additional commentary provided by golfer Justin Thomas and basketball player turned sports analyst Charles Barkley, “The Match II: Champions for Charity” was a thoroughly enjoyable return to televised sports, as four great athletes squared off to raise money for a good cause.
Thomas shined in his role as commentator alongside long-time basketball analyst and legendary bad golfer Barkley. Thomas and Barkley had an easy chemistry, and the pair’s banter matched nicely with their insights into the game.
Barkley is an experienced analyst and served as a commentator in 2018’s “The Match: Tiger vs Phil,” and he was right at ease, pairing analysis with humor. Thomas, currently the number 4 ranked golfer in the world, more than held his own, cementing a bright future in commentary.
— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) May 24, 2020
Tiger’s Incredible Game
Tiger Woods played beautifully on Sunday. He was clearly at home at Medalist, and it felt like the man never missed a fairway. He truly made the game look easy, reminding viewers exactly how great a player he is when at the top of his game. A flare-up of a persistent knee-injury forced the golfer to sit out the last PGA event before the hiatus in March, so it was exciting to see him back to form.
Tiger. Fairway. Repeat. pic.twitter.com/Jxdtx2xOQo
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) May 25, 2020
Brady’s Comeback at the Expense of His Pants
The beginning of the match was rough for Brady. For the first few holes, he seemed physically unable to hit a single fairway, and his short game was no better. Barkley offered to donate $50,000 if Brady could hit the green on the 4th hole, a par-3, which he missed, prompting Barkley to amend the offer, stating, “I should have just said keep it on the planet.” Brady responded, “When does football season start?”
However, the quarterback made an impressive comeback on the seventh hole, sinking a wedge shot from the fairway for a birdie after failing to make par on the previous six holes. The birdie earned a $100,000 donation from golf pro Brooks Koepka, who had offered the donation through his charity fund should Brady make par on any hole on the front nine.
The impressive birdie came at a cost of Brady’s pants, which split as he bent down to retrieve his ball. He was a good sport about the embarrassing incident, poking fun at himself on Twitter. Luckily, a commercial break arrived, allowing him to change his pants.
One Club Challenge
Switching up the game from a traditional format, the fifth hole forced the players to select one of their clubs to complete the entire hole, including putting. Conventional wisdom dictates choosing a 6-iron, which Mickelson, Manning, and Brady all did, as the sacrifice in length for driving is mitigated by the flexibility in chipping.
And they really needed that flexibility, as Mickelson and Manning both hit their tee shots into the woods, while Brady landed in the water. Woods selected a 4-iron, and was the only member of the foursome to actually hit the fairway. For participation in the challenge, Capital One donated $250,000.
The one-club was not the only challenge hole Sunday. The 8th and 16th offered a $25 million donation for any holes-in-one, though none occurred. The 16th hole also had a closest to the pin challenge, in which Manning triumphed over both Tiger and Phil.
A highlight of Sunday’s match was the trash talk and commentary between the players. A particularly fun exchange occurred between Tiger and Phil on the aforementioned fifth hole surrounding the U.S. Open, a tournament Phil has yet to win, despite finishing as runner up a record of six times.
Tiger found the perfect time for a U.S. Open jab at Phil pic.twitter.com/AhtiRzZSUo
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) May 24, 2020
Manning joked about potential caddie picks to get inside Brady’s head, including his brother Eli, former Eagles QB Nick Foles (the only two Super Bowl QBs to whom Brady has ever lost), or Brady’s ex-coach, Bill Belichick.
Manning also ribbed commentator Barkley, explaining his good shot was a result of thinking, “What would Charles not do?” The trash talk wasn’t reserved to the players and commentators, though, as ribbing tweets from the players’ friends were displayed on screen.
Trash talk wasn’t the only benefit gained from the live mics. Both Brady and Manning engaged in some self-deprecating humor while comparing their golf games to two of the greats. Hearing Mickelson break down exactly how he’s going to hit a shot, and then executing it perfectly, is an absolute joy. His comprehensive narration, and advice to his struggling teammate, was both fun and insightful.
The use of body mics for golfers has been a controversial subject for golf fans. The PGA tour considered using body mics for players in 2010, in an effort to boost television ratings and improve the broadcasts. Sunday’s match made the argument in favor of increased use. While they’ll understandably never become standard practice, events such as “The Match II” allow the players’ interactions to become part of the event, which improves the experience for the viewers at home.
Charity Auctions and Donations
While watching golf on TV was a true treat, the ultimate goal of the event was to raise money for Wuhan virus relief. While the match’s stated goal was to raise $10 million, they doubled that with auction results and donations.
An 18-hole round of golf with Phil Mickelson was auctioned off for $190,000, and private putting lessons with Tiger Woods raised $260,000 at auction. Both prizes also came with exclusive invites to Pro-Ams and VIP passes to tournaments. All four carts used were also auctioned off, each of which was customized for the player.
Charles Barkley’s Golf Game
Barkley may be the most famously awful golfer. He has one of the most recognizable bad swings, and a tragic record to match. Famed instructor Hank Haney referred to NBA star-turned-analyst as his “lifelong project” after working with Barkley for an entire season on his Golf Channel show, “The Haney Project.” I haven’t played competitively since my high school varsity team, but Barkley makes me feel better about my game.
However, there’s something incredibly fun about his love of the game. Not for lack of trying to improve, Barkley’s genuine enjoyment at playing golf, regardless of skill level, is infectious, reminding us all of our love for the sport (even when playing poorly).
That being said, his failure to make a bogey, even with the help of Justin Thomas, was equal parts sad and hilarious, following all of his ribbing of the players throughout the game. His notorious swing does seem to be getting better, showing notable improvement from his previous jerky swing.
Watching Charles Barkley hit a golf ball is never not entertaining. pic.twitter.com/zqLKuA6kJX
— Mark Harris (@itismarkharris) May 25, 2020
The Match II: Champions for Charity was the perfect sports programming for being under quarantine. With clever trash talking, incredible and awful golf shots, fun challenges, and $20 million raised for charity, this game was both enjoyable and needed. I am looking forward to Phil and Tiger’s rematch in 2022 to see who wins best two out of three.