Who should star in the next edition of The Match?
When it comes to The Match, the second time was the charm.
Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning’s victory over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady turned out to be exciting television on Sunday, making the second edition of Capital One’s The Match—this one raising $20 million for COVID-19 relief after the original was a one-on-one match for a $9 million prize—a smashing success. Despite biblical rain, some horrible shots and a few awkward moments, all four men fed off each other perfectly, creating a delightfully low-key atmosphere. It felt as though the viewer was dropped into this legendary foursome, fly-on-the-wall style, which was exactly the idea. If the first match tried too hard, this one tried just hard enough.
Much of the reason for this was that Manning and Brady proved to be ideal additions to the original formula. Peyton’s endless riffs were highly entertaining—the guy has fantastic comedic timing—and Brady’s roller coaster of a round made him more relatable than ever. That type of broadcast only goes as far as its four core members (the players) take it, and the foursome gelled perfectly.
Because we can never just be satisfied with a good, fun thing, our attention now shifts toward getting our next fix. Which begs the question: Assuming Tiger and Phil return again as the anchors—as they should—and that they stick with the two-pros, two-Joes format, who should be on the short list to round of the foursome for the next Match?
This was one of the things we discussed this week on the Golf Digest Podcast, which featured a full breakdown of everything relating to The Match. Here are some names that were tossed around:
Obviously, Jordan’s having a moment right now. (Apparently it has something to do with some documentary on ESPN? The Last Something or other.) Anyway, Jordan makes sense on a few levels. His love for golf is well-documented. He has a relationship with both Tiger and Phil. He’s a solid player, somewhere in that same 6-10 handicap range as Brady and Manning. And lord knows he has stories on stories on stories.
The only possible negative here: Jordan’s otherworldly competitiveness. When Brady was playing awfully on the front nine, he got real quiet—whether that was due to technical difficulties or sheer frustration is for someone else to decide. You have to think Jordan would be similarly reclusive if things didn’t go his way, which doesn’t make for the best TV.
Curry’s got the personality, and he’s a total stick, having shot one over par during a start in a Korn Ferry Tour event. His skill, however, might actually be a detriment when it comes to his candidacy. Allow me to explain.
First, part of the fun of Sunday was seeing those horrible shots. Curry’s in that no-man’s land where he’s not bad enough for it to be entertaining, but he’s also not good enough for us to really fawn over his play like we do with the pros. Watching a guy hit a shank and then hole out from 140 yards, as Brady did, is funny. Watching a guy hit a bunch of fairways and then hitting his approaches to 30 feet? Not so electric.
Another reason Sunday went so well is it wasn’t awkward when Brady was hacking it around. He’s a solid golfer, but he’s not an awesome golfer, so the other three didn’t feel bad giving him crap. The dynamic changes a bit when the guy playing is a good, serious player. When a good, serious player is playing poorly, it’s just kind of awkward, and the other guys in the group don’t feel comfortable ripping into him. This was the problem in the match at Seminole—when Wolff was making bogeys and doubles, the other three didn’t want to criticize too much because it’s the man’s job, after all. Curry’s serious about his golf game, which is awesome, just maybe not for this.
He’s a quarterback, a stud golfer and a world-class broadcaster, which means he’s a world-class talker. It’s a natural fit, but he runs into some of the same problems as Curry. Namely, it’s probably more fun watching an 8 handicap play than a scratch, and he takes it seriously enough that it would be awkward if he plays terrible. Because he’s played in so many pro-ams and professional tournaments before, there also isn’t any novelty in watching him play. We know what it looks like.
All credit to Alex Myers for this genius suggestion. I absolutely love the idea of having three world-class athletes, with the foursome rounded out by maybe the funniest situational humorist on the planet. It would be a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode brought to life: Larry talking constantly about how out of place he is, begging for putts to be given, playing practical jokes, amplifying awkwardness as he does so very well.
As for his golf game, here’s what he told Golf Digest a few years back: “I’m a 15-handicap. I can reach a lot of par 4s in two. The reason I’m a 15 is that at the end of the day there are three 7s on my card. But I’m a 15 you don’t want to play against. There was a movement in my Saturday game to switch to medal play because I was winning too often.”
On his putting: “I now have four styles of putting. I use the long putter. That will work for a round or two, then I move to sidesaddle. That will work for a while, then I switch to a regular-length putter. Then my last resort is looking at the hole instead of the ball. You have to keep rotating the system and be ready to switch the second things stop working.”
Feed me this neurotic energy. Sign Mr. David up.