DEREK LAWRENSON: It’s a win-win as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson put on a superb show in ‘The Match: Champions for Charity’ encounter in Florida to raise £16.4m for Covid-19 relief charities
- Shown in UK on CNN, it was the most entertaining golf telecast I’ve seen in years
- Laugh out loud funny on the front nine, it turned into a gripping climax
- As so often in their careers, however, it was Tiger Woods who had the last word
Who says that sequels are never as good as the original? No one who tuned into The Match: Champions for Charity on Sunday night could hold that view.
The first encounter featuring Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in Las Vegas 18 months ago stank the joint out. What a contrast this time from Florida, and five hours of programming that must have had the man who turned it down for Sky Sports getting almost as many dirty looks as Dominic Cummings.
Shown in the UK on CNN, it was the most entertaining golf telecast I’ve seen in years. Laugh out loud funny on the front nine, it turned into a gripping climax despite the wind, rain and finally the gathering darkness on the inward half.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson went head-to-head once again on Sunday night in The Match: Champions for Charity alongside NFL stars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady
It was a much more entertaining occasion than their previous encounter in Las Vegas
All too often, golf on TV features pros who don’t smile and commentators who send the head spinning with statistical data. Here was the first programme I can remember watching that reflected the game we love at club level, as the jokes and banter early on gave way to a bit of serious stuff at the end.
So many people in America enjoyed it that the extraordinary sum of $20million (£16.4m) was raised for Covid-19 relief charities. That’s what you call a win-win.
Tremendous credit goes to the superstar quarterbacks who bravely put themselves forward to partner Woods and Mickelson — Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
The latter, surely the greatest American footballer of all time, has a reputation for being po-faced but millions will now have a different view. For six holes Brady couldn’t hit a shot, and then he sank a wedge approach from 100 yards. All four players were mic’d up and we hadn’t heard a peep from him to that point. Now, you couldn’t shut him up. Isn’t that golf to a tee, as a moment in the sun gloriously makes up for all the maddening frustration?
Walking the fairways, world No 4 Justin Thomas — a close friend of Woods’ — proved a natural as an on-course commentator. In the booth, basketball legend Charles Barkley, a golfing hacker, was riotously funny.
Mickelson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Brady put on an entertaining show for viewers
If there was one small complaint, it would be that the greensomes format should have been used for all 18 holes rather than just the back nine (fourballs, which take too long, was used over the outward half).
What a treat it was to see all four players tee off and then watch the two pros calculate how they could best protect their amateur partners, as the two teams picked one drive and played alternate shots thereafter. Bizarrely, Mickelson and Brady scored far better at this format than at fourballs. Three down after nine, they reduced the arrears to one with some inspiring play, despite vicious downpours. Mickelson became a dervish, bringing the competitor out of Brady.
Manning paired up with Woods and the two secured victory over their illustrious opponents
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
‘We take great pride in the fact that many thousands try to qualify each year for the US Open and it’s heartbreaking for us not to be able to conduct such qualifying competitions this year.’
Giving all pros, and amateurs with the requisite handicap abilities, the chance to qualify and play in the US Open lies at the heart of what the event is about.
So you can only imagine how difficult the decision was for John Bodenhamer, who oversees the tournament, to cancel qualifying for this year’s edition, owing to the pandemic.
Due to take place in September at Winged Foot, New York, it will now be the first all-exempt US Open since the early days of the championship, more than 100 years ago.
As so often in their careers, however, it was Woods who had the last word. Excitingly for the game, ahead of the PGA Tour’s resumption in Texas in just over a fortnight, he looked in great nick. Swinging the club beautifully, he never missed a fairway on his home course, the Medalist, less than an hour from Miami. Needing two putts to win from long range in near darkness, he took all the pressure off Manning with the perfect lag putt to six inches for a one-hole victory.
The game has often resorted to gimmicks recently to project itself beyond its die-hard audience. Pretty much all have come across as phoney, however well-meaning. This one succeeded resoundingly, illustrating to non-believers what the fuss is about and showcasing why so many top sportsmen love playing golf in their spare time.
In short, the perfect sequel — one that left us yearning for part three.
The special match was a success and left us yearning for part three between the two stars
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