Takeaways from “The Match: Champions for Charity”

From Tom Brady’s front nine struggles to the endless wisecracking, the event followed through on the hype and then some.

America was blessed with its first live sports in months Sunday when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson teamed up with NFL legends Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in an 18-hole golf match on TNT. The Capital One-sponsored event titled “The Match: Champions for Charity” took place at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., and raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief.

The match, which featured longest drive, closest to the pin and hole-in-one challenges for added donations, ended in a victory for Woods and Manning. The pair held off a back nine comeback from Mickelson and Brady to win by one hole. Much more important than the final result, though, was the money raised — athletes like Russell Wilson and Brooks Koepka chimed in throughout the event to pledge donations depending on the outcome of certain holes and shots — and the entertainment value that has been missing in the absence of live sports.

Here are six extended thoughts on the second iteration of “The Match.”

1) The No. 1 development that came from this event was the memes mocking Brady’s awful front nine. As precise as he is on the gridiron, Brady sprayed the golf ball all over the place, and it made for some good content and funny interaction.

Brady even got skewered for ripping his pants, so it was a tough stretch for him.

But in true TB12 fashion, he still found a way to keep his team alive. The six-time Super Bowl champion responded to some trash talk from announcer Charles Barkley by holing out from 150 yards.

Brady built on his football reputation as a closer by finding his groove down the stretch, but it was too little too late — and certainly not enough to make people forget the embarrassment of the front.

2) The banter between the players was the best part for any viewers who didn’t love seeing Brady struggle. Manning was unsurprisingly the best with his words and got after it before the event even teed off:

My personal favorite was when Mickelson got so excited about the long drive competition on the third hole before lasering it straight into the trees. He later jokingly asked if Manning could still hole the final putt on 18 from about a foot away.

Even Brady and Woods, notorious for appearing robotic and even awkward in the media, had jokes. That’s just how it is when four guys get out on the course.

3) On that topic, golf needs to take the example from this event and mic up every player from now on. The same goes for all sports that may be coming back from the coronavirus pandemic to empty arenas. It’ll still be weird for the NBA Playoffs to lack crowd noise, but some of that could be offset by the pearls we get from hearing athletes in action.

One of the best parts was Mickelson’s golfing wisdom throughout, whether he was telling Brady how to hit a putt or walking viewers through how he was about to hit a chip that ended up inches from the hole on No. 2.

4) There was one awesome sequence that reminded me both of how hungry we are for live sports and how absurd this year has been. After Mickelson drove the green on No. 11 and Manning hit a second straight fantastic approach, Brady drained an eagle putt to get back to 2 down. It was absolutely surreal to me that the best sports sequence of 2020 involved Peyton Manning and Tom Brady hitting golf shots.

5) Peyton Manning is … actually really good at golf? He’s obviously been working on his game in retirement, because he was pretty influential in his team building that lead. He hit two winner putts on the front nine — including a pretty long one on No. 4 — and had a few awesome iron shots onto the green.

More importantly, he put his tee shot on 16 within feet of the hole to match Brady and Mickelson and prevent their best shot at a comeback.

6) The announcing crew was good, but it was certainly highlighted by a long-tenured expert in Barkley and a newbie in pro golfer Justin Thomas. Barkley is funny no matter what, but Thomas was really impressive in using his knowledge of the game, relationship with the pros and humor while fighting the rain in his broadcast debut.

Aside from their moments with the competitors (Thomas was constantly cracking jokes at Tiger, his partner at the 2019 Presidents Cup), Thomas and Barkley had a really funny exchange on No. 8 after Barkley said he wasn’t impressed by a Tiger bunker shot and that he wouldn’t get excited about a basketball player dunking. Thomas fired back, saying, “Chuck I’d love to see your fat ass try to dunk a basketball right now,” to which Barkley responded with his typical humor.

My biggest gripe with the whole event was that Thomas and Barkley didn’t get more air time. Their chemistry was especially evident when Barkley barely missed his target bogey score in another charity challenge on 18 after the event.