Every edition of Capital One's The Match, ranked


Stacy Revere

February 14, 2024

The vision for Capital One’s The Match—being played for the ninth time later this month—has always been to provide a made-for-TV product that’s a little different, pushing the boundaries of the traditionally buttoned-up sport to appeal to a wider audience, all while raising millions of dollars for charity. Originally conceived as a pay-per-view duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for $9 million over Thanksgiving weekend in 2018, The Match has evolved into a sports spectacle as much as a golf one, with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Charles Barkley, Patrick Mahomes and Steph Curry all making appearances.

In its previous iterations, we’ve seen Woods and Mickelson go extra holes, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau “settle” their bizarre feud, Barkley display his resurrected golf game and Rodgers put on a clutch-putting clinic … twice. With all the highs, though, The Match has often been hampered by awkward, forced trash-talk and fits of poor golf leading to anti-climactic finishes.

On Feb. 26 in West Palm Beach, Fla., the franchise will expand to include women for the first time, as LPGA phenom Rose Zhang and 11-time tour winner Lexi Thompson will join Rory McIlroy and Max Homa in a 12-hole skins match under the lights at The Park (coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. on TNT, truTV, HLN and Max). To get you ready for the ninth installment of The Match, we’re looking back and ranking each of the first eight editions.

8. Phil Mickelson/Charles Barkley vs. Stephen Curry/Peyton Manning (The Match 3, November 2020)


Christian Petersen

Let’s start with the good from this event: The third edition of The Match raised $5,455,000 for historically black colleges and universities. If nothing else, the day was a success on that front.

The match itself, though, left a lot to be desired. After losing the first hole, Mickelson and Barkley stormed to a 4-up lead through 10 holes, aided by Barkley’s shockingly solid play and Curry’s struggles. Barkley put his revamped, hitch-free swing to the test and didn’t miss a fairway until the fifth hole.

Riding the high after going 4 up through seven, Barkley looked into the camera and delivered one of the lines of the day, advising the channel execs to “Get some of those ‘Law and Order’ reruns ready in about five more holes.”

It proved only a slight exaggeration, as Mickelson and Barkley cruised to a 4-and-3 win over the pre-match favorites, with airtime to fill afterward. The day lacked energy, and the tired narrative of Barkley being a poor golfer was overplayed, to say the least. Shaquille O’Neal joined the telecast to throw shade at his friend, saying “Chuck, if you can’t read words, how you gonna read greens?” OK, that’s a solid dagger. They were few and far between.

7. Bryson DeChambeau vs. Brooks Koepka (The Match 5, November 2021)


David Becker

One lengthy eyeroll from Koepka at the 2021 PGA Championship set off a series of back-and-forths with DeChambeau that inevitably led to this bout at Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas. A heavyweight battle on paper, the match was all Koepka, as he took an early lead and cruised to a 5-and-3 (!) win in this 12-hole duel.

The uncomfortable tone was set on the first tee, when Bryson offered the crowd “Brooks Koepka cupcakes,” in a bizarre interaction that was matched with a trademark Koepka smirk. If nothing else, the beefed-up nerd taking on the beefed-up frat-boy narrative was holding strong.

The awkwardness continued, as Mickelson, who was in the booth, asked DeChambeau after a long drive, “Do you feel that hitting bombs like that is attractive, makes you feel physically more attractive?” Bryson did little to quell the advance, responding “Oh, very. It’s hot.” Sheesh.

Aside from a few of these strange comments, Mickelson was excellent on the call, providing keen insight into the mental strategy employed by him and Bryson (this was pre-LIV Golf so the byplay is even more interesting in hindsight). Alongside Mickelson in the booth, Barkley gave some fantastic one-liners:

“I don’t got a college degree, but a lotta people working for me got ’em.”

“Yoga is just stretching. They call it yoga to charge you more.”

Long live Sir Charles.

6. Bryson DeChambeau/Aaron Rodgers vs. Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady (The Match 4, July 2021)


Stacy Revere

Before the match in Montana, Rodgers quieted expectations, saying he hadn’t played much golf over the previous year, estimating nine rounds in total. The rusty facade didn’t hold up for long, though, as Rodgers rolled in putt after putt, arguably carrying a struggling DeChambeau to a 3-and-2 victory.

The host course—The Reserve at Moonlight Basin—provided a stunning backdrop, with moose and bears lurking off the fairways that often sat well below the tee, providing for some massive drives from DeChambeau and company. It's a good thing the setting was so picturesque as the pace of play in this one was quite the opposite.

With few spectators, Tom Brady’s energy (the guy loves competition) carried the day, notably on the 14th hole, when players were allowed just one club. Missing a five-footer with a 7-iron, Brady let out a passionate scream, to which DeChambeau commented how he loved the emotion. In an uncomfortable standoff, Brady stared him down for seconds on end, giving the match the edge it desperately needed.

5. Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas vs. Rory McIlroy/Tiger Woods (The Match 7, December 2022)


David Cannon/Getty Images for The Match

That Tiger Woods was even playing in the match at Pelican G.C. in Belleair, Fla. was admirable. Battling plantar fasciitis, Woods withdrew from the previous week’s Hero World Challenge, and it was clear throughout the match under the lights that he was in significant pain. Seeing Tiger hobbling around the course (he was using a golf club as a cane upon arriving) was tough to watch.

Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas teamed up and provided nearly all the highlights in this one-sided match. On the second hole, Spieth talked viewers through his greenside bunker shot while he was over the ball, before executing exactly as planned. It was a nerdy golf moment that was The Match at its best. Spieth and JT won the hole, and the pair would never look back, winning 3 and 2 in the 12-hole match.

The highlight was at the fourth hole, where players could only use one club. Tiger, taking a long iron, aimed nearly 90 degrees right of the fairway and hit a slinging hook. He did the same for his second shot. It was the sort of shot-making that makes the 15-time major champion so compelling to watch—even when injured.

Spieth and Thomas were far more comfortable with the trash talk than Tiger and Rory, who seemed stiff most of the night. Having the match under the lights enhanced the product quite a bit, with the night sky allowing viewer to see the flight of the ball, though the dew created tricky conditions for the players—something to keep an eye on at The Park.

4. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson (The Match 1, November 2018)


Christian Petersen

Suffice to say with the two best players of their generation squaring off in a $9 million winner-take-all match on the day after Thanksgiving, the inaugural match at Shadow Creek had lofty expectations. For much of the day, the play was underwhelming, with both guys struggling to make a putt longer than five feet. Even Rickie Fowler, not known for throwing heat, described the duel on Twitter as a “pillow fight.”

However, it was a competitive pillow fight, at least. Tiger delivered a signature Woodsian moment on the par-3 17th, facing a 1-down deficit with Mickelson in close for birdie. A chip-in, fist pump and Mickelson miss meant they were going the distance. The match went to extra holes and eventually the guys were taking dollar-bill divots out of the practice putting green, playing to a makeshift 90-yard par 3 under floodlights. Mickelson delivered the final blow (finally) on the 22nd hole, making birdie.

The close match was dampened by a persistent cloud of awkwardness, as both guys seemed unable to discern if this was a hit-and-giggle needling session or a serious competition.

3. Patrick Mahomes/Travis Kelce vs. Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson (The Match 8, June 2023)


Ezra Shaw

For the second-consecutive year, Wynn G.C. on the Vegas Strip hosted four non-golfers in The Match. Much like the 2022 edition, this match provided the energy and clever trash-talking that the pro-golfers-only versions often lack.

Making his second appearance in The Match, Mahomes joined teammate Travis Kelce (pre-Taylor Swift era), with both men hitting some fantastic shots en route to their comfortable 3-and-2 victory over the NBA pairing of Curry and Thompson. Mahomes hit several crafty short-game shots and holed key putts to grab an early lead. Curry’s game was up-and-down, while Thompson really struggled, made worse by Draymond Green’s heckling.

It was the energy that made this edition a great watch. Kelce, despite being admittedly hungover, was chugging beers between holes. Green and Von Miller, who were walking with the guys, created a boisterous atmosphere full of trash-talk and cheering. Each edition of The Match places a different emphasis on the quality of golf vs. entertainment, and this one leaned fully into the latter, creating a solid product for the general sports audience, even if it lacked a close finish.

2. Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady (The Match 2, May 2020)


Mike Ehrmann

Let’s be honest, any golf on TV during the spring of 2020—in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns—would have been well-received. Despite a rainy day at Medalist Golf Club, the second edition showed much improvement over the lackluster inaugural 22-hole “battle” between Woods and Mickelson.

The trash-talking started on the range, as on-course reporter Amanda Renner asked Manning who he would’ve chosen for a caddie had he been allowed one. “Bill Belichick,” Manning said as he turned to Brady, a recent Patriots defector. Early 1-up lead.

Brady struggled mightily off the tee early. Barkley was throwing daggers from the booth, offering up $50,000 of his own money if Brady hit the green on a par 3. Yet, Brady produced the best moment in The Match history to date on the par-5 seventh when he spun his approach back into the hole as his mic dangled from his ripped pants. “Shut your mouth, Chuck,” he said in addition to a few more descriptive phrases.

Tiger striped it off the tee all day. Justin Thomas was excellent as an on-course analyst, providing timely insight and needling. And the match was competitive, with Woods and Manning holding off a charging Brady and Mickelson to win, 1 up, on the final hole.

1. Tom Brady/Aaron Rodgers vs. Josh Allen/Patrick Mahomes (The Match 6, June 2022)


Carmen Mandato

It’s a bit ironic that the most entertaining match so far in this golf franchise featured … no professional golfers. Instead, it was four star NFL quarterbacks battling at Wynn G.C. in Las Vegas in 2022. The five previous matches were all hampered by a lack of on-site fanfare, each having either sparse crowds or none at all due to COVID-19. Not so this time in Vegas, as boisterous fans lined the fairways, hurling their fair share of trash talk towards the players.

The banter between quarterbacks was well-timed, perhaps none more so than Tom Brady’s quip after chunking an iron shot. “I call that a little Josh Allen-y,” Brady said to Allen, who struggled with his game throughout. Other highlights included players tossing a football at a large cutout of Barkley’s head to secure a mulligan and Brady promptly shanking a shot after analyst Trevor Immelman gave him a swing tip.

For the second-consecutive match he appeared in, Rodgers delivered the closing blow, rolling in a 10-foot slider to give he and Brady the victory on the final hole in the back-and-forth match. The fifth installment of The Match had it all.