What You Need to Know
November 25, 2020

The Match 3 format and picks: Can you really bet on Charles Barkley?

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Stan Badz

There might not be a PGA Tour event this week, but we do have some golf to bet on with “The Match: Champions for Change” being played Friday at 3 p.m. ET (on TNT). We don’t want to speak for all golf fans, but watching Charles Barkley hack it up on cable TV to cure our Thanksgiving hangovers sounds pretty delightful to us.

Having golf on Thanksgiving weekend brings back fond memories of the old Skins Games. Sure, the golf will likely be bad at times with just one professional golfer in the group, but the back-and-forth banter should be entertaining.

Peyton Manning and Steph Curry will face Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley in this iteration of The Match. It has a tough act to follow, after the Tiger/Manning v. Phil/Tom Brady match became the most-watched cable TV golf event in history. The fascination of Barkley’s awful golf swing should generate some interest, with two other huge crossover stars in Manning and Curry to pull in a casual sports fan.

Manning/Curry are heavy favorites (-175 currently at DraftKings Sportsbook) against the Mickelson/Barkley team (+138). (Scroll to the bottom to see our favorite bets for The Match 3.)

That strong advantage for Manning/Curry likely has a lot to do with the format (see below). Also remember that the main priority of these matches is to drive money for charity. The Match will contribute toward and highlight diversity, equality and inclusion through donations toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a cause that Curry and Manning have led. (Curry made a seven-figure donation to Howard University last year to allow the school to fund the relaunch of its golf program, and Manning’s Peyback Foundation endowed six scholarships to four HBCUs in Tennessee and his home state of Louisiana.)

Here’s what you need to know if you’re betting The Match 3:

THE FORMAT

As we said above, the purpose here is to entertain and raise money for charity, so don’t be surprised about a wonky format change down the wire.

From what we can tell, though, the format for 18 holes will be a modified alternate shot, otherwise known as Pinehurst, in which every golfer hits a tee shot, and the teams will pick the best tee shot. The player whose shot isn't used must hit the next shot. Then it’s alternate shot until a team holes out.

The format will put Barkley’s game in a spotlight on every hole. And that, well … could get interesting.

THE TEAMS

Curry and Manning vs. Mickelson and Barkley. At first glance, one team has a five-time major champion and one of the best golfers of all time. You’d think Phil/Chuck would have an advantage. But the X factor is Barkley, while Curry and Manning are no slouches.

Ellie Mae Classic - Round One

Lachlan Cunningham

Curry’s current handicap is listed as a +2.2 index. That means a scratch golfer at an average course in terms of difficulty would be getting two shots from Steph. This is just 0.1 points off Curry’s lowest handicap. In the past month, Curry has posted five scores—all of which are lower than 75. And the courses have been difficult. He shot a 69 at a course with a Slope Rating of 135, which is slightly above average in terms of difficulty. Of course, Curry has played in multiple Korn Ferry Tour events, even shooting an even-par 71 in one of them. So we know he has serious game and can compete under pressure.

Manning is listed at a 4.8 index, which is just 0.5 points off his lowest Handicap Index ever. Though Peyton hasn’t posted any scores in November like his teammate, he appears to be playing golf at the end of this year, compared to when we saw him in The Match 2 in May. His index was a 6.4 in May. The former NFL quarterback displayed a consistent game alongside Tiger Woods—even hitting his tee shot on a par 3 closer than Tiger and Phil (albeit from more forward tees).

Barkley, well … that’s the big story here. Phil claims that Barkley used to break 80 consistently when they used to play in the 1990s. Barkley told Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski recently that he’s been hitting golf balls for five hours nearly every day for the past six months. Wow … poor Chuck. If he has his familiar hitch after all that work, don’t be too surprised. Barkley has tried nearly everything—appearing on The Haney Project, working with nearly every top teacher, and even getting hypnotized, which he told David Feherty in 2013: “All I got was a good nap. I woke up with the same crappy swing.”

How much of a liability Barkley poses to Phil will be the deciding factor in this match. In this modified alternate shot format, he’ll need to, at least, hit meaningful putts on every hole.

THE LOCATION

The event is taking place at Stone Canyon Golf Club in Oro Valley, Ariz., just outside of Tucson. The course is owned by Mickelson Golf Properties, sits at the base of the Tortolita Mountains and offers views of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no fans in attendance at the event.

HOW TO WATCH

“Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change” will be broadcast live on TNT on Friday, Nov. 27, beginning at 3 p.m. ET. Brian Anderson will be the play-by-play announcer along with color commentary from former Masters winner Trevor Immelman and NBA star Andre Iguodala. Gary McCord and Cheyenne Woods will work as on-course reporters. Special guest will make appearances, joining the telecast via Cisco Webex.

Live companion content—including an originally produced “Cart Cam” stream—will be available through Bleacher Report and the B/R app. It will be hosted by Taylor Rooks with Eli Manning as the on-course, in-cart correspondent.

At 2 p.m., TNT will air “Capital One’s The Match Pre-Match Show,” which will break down the event, the four competitors and the HBCUs that they’ll be raising money for. Cari Champion will host the one-hour program with Eli Manning and Michelle Wie West.

WHAT TO BET ON

The outright market is currently: Manning/Curry (-175) vs. Mickelson/Barkley (+138). That means a $17.50 bet on Manning/Curry would win you $10. And a $10 bet on Mickelson/Barkley would net you $13.80 if they win.

Here are our favorite bets for The Match 3—be sure to listen to our podcast below, breaking down the golf course, the format and our favorite bets for the match.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Auburn rushing yards vs. Alabama (+120) over distance of Charles Barkley’s opening drive (SportsBetting.com)

Last time we saw Chuck swing on TV was at Medalist for the “Bogey or Better” challenge. While warming up, he actually made a few decent swings on the range, and even though he rolled his eventual tee shot on the 18th, it still went 200-plus yards. This time, though, the pressure of being on TV, playing with Phil Mickelson and first-tee jitters in general could lead to him cold topping it, shanking it, or pulling one badly down the left side. The first fairway is pretty inviting at Stone Canyon, but if you’re off line you’re in a world of trouble. Chuck will be off line, and might not exceed 200 yards this time around if his ball clips a tree or the rocks that line each side of the fairway. Chuck’s alma mater Auburn averages 170 yards per game on the ground, and has eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in two of its last three games. To hang with Alabama, they are going to need to control the ball and keep the potent Crimson Tide offense off the field, which means Gus Malzahn’s game plan will include a heavy dose of run plays. If the Tigers hit their average or go over it in the Iron Bowl, they should cash this crazy prop ticket.

Hennessey: Barkley to not hit the green in regulation on the par-3 sixth hole (-371, PointsBet)

Take whatever extraneous money you have and put it on this. I don’t care if you have to call your broker right now—tell him to move this money into your betting account. You can wire him the winnings back after this cashes on Friday night. Look at this hole … there’s no way Barkley will hit the green. This is free money!!!

Che Wilson/chetheshooter.com, Courtesy of Stone Canyon

Hennessey: Barkley to hit in the water at the sixth hole (Yes, +150, DraftKings Sportsbook)

Once again, take a look at this hole (above). There is water everywhere—in front of the green, to the left of the green. How could this be plus-money?!

Powers: Will Charles Barkley make a putt over 10 feet? Yes: +220 (SportsBetting.com)

This is by no means a “whale play.” Just a little sprinkle to make any 10-plus footer from Chuck highly entertaining. There’s no hitch in his putting stroke, believe it or not, and he’ll have Phil freakin’ Mickelson coaching him up.

Hennessey: Charles Barkley to hit the fairway on the first and third holes (+210, DraftKings)

Live betting is how to attack these type of matches. Wagering on whether someone hits the fairway or the green can be dangerously fun. This bet is not for the weak-hearted. Barkley will be teeing from a forward set of tees, and at the first hole—a strong dogleg to the left—he will likely only need to hit a 6-iron or so short of the fairway at the corner of the dogleg. I think that will be Phil and Barkley’s strategy—have Barkley hit whatever he needs to get in the fairway.

I realize this presents a lot of risk … the hitch in his swing might be back. But I have confidence, and the fairway at the third hole, especially, is really wide. I think he can do it. C’mon Chuck!

Hennessey: Steph Curry to miss the opening fairway (+150, PointsBet)

First-tee jitters even get to Tiger Woods. Curry will absolutely be nervous hitting off the first tee. He’ll also be back hitting with Phil. I think he’ll need to draw a fairway wood at this dogleg left opener. That’s an easy shot to overcook or fade out to the right. Judging from highlights of Curry’s last Korn Ferry appearance, his strengths are his short game and iron play. Off the tee, he found the rough in spots, so I’m really liking this bet.

Powers: Steph Curry/Peyton Manning leader after 9 holes (-125, DraftKings)

This feels like the only lock on the board. No question Chuck is going to struggle early. Tom Brady did and he’s a good player. Eventually, with enough help from Phil, he may settle in and they could keep it competitive, but I’d expect them to be down at least 1 or 2 holes heading to 10 tee. Curry is a scratch and Manning showed off some serious skill in The Match 2 back in May. There’s a reason they are the heavy Vegas favorite.

Powers: Holes conceded by both teams: Over 2.5 (SportsBetting.com)

You have to figure both teams concede at least once, and then you just need one more concession. Hell, if Barkley is in constant trouble all day, he and Phil might hit this over by themselves … on the front nine.