I’ll be honest, when the first talks of the Match started getting thrown around, I wasn’t particularly excited. The name alone was a turn off. It felt like a rip off of the OG Match. A two man best ball game played at Cypress Point in the 50’s between the amateur team of Ken Venturi and Harvey Ward, against Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, the two titans of the game at that time. Tiger and Phil couldn’t come up with a different name for their Las Vegas money game? C’mon.
Then came the knowledge that it was going to be pay per view. Another blow to the match. The idea of paying to watch two guys be cheeseballs on a rich mans golf course didn’t get me all hot and bothered. Shadow Creek? It’s just a modern course that no one gets to play unless they want to fork over $500, which is the same price as Pebble. What golfer in their right mind would choose Shadow Creek over Pebble for that chunk of change…? But the more I thought about it, the more I came around to the idea of watching.
The Match, as I begrudgingly must call it, offers something that the golfing world desperately needs. A way to make golf digestible for the average American sports fan. Two men, Mano y Mano, winner take all. The stakes are easy to understand and give golf something that it doesn’t have in regular PGA Tour events. Two guys duking it out for the right to be the champion for the day.
I’m going to watch it in the hopes that we get more of this in the future. Golf on a week in week out basis on the PGA Tour is not particularly exciting to the average sports fan. If more of these matches take off, and more people watch the matches, they will get a better understanding of what these golfers are like on the course. Making golfers more likeable, or more detestable, is only going to do good things for PGA Tour viewership during the season. People will have more dogs in the fight, and will feel more attached to players that they’ve seen in this intimate setting.
I’ve harped about it on the podcast many times. Shells Wonderful World of Golf should be brought back. It doesn’t look like that program is coming back anytime soon, but this Match could get us closer to satisfying that glaring hole in golf TV. They didn’t check all the boxes exactly the way I would have wanted them too, but they got the ball rolling. And it is my duty to give them a reason to keep the ball rolling.
Would I rather see Tiger and Phil play Cypress Point, Cal Club, Philly Cricket Club, Pine Valley, or any other of the great classic American golf courses? Of course! Do I wish this match was for less money, so that the $9 million wasn’t the main marketing point I had to listen to? Obviously! Should this have happened 10 years ago? Certainly! But that doesn’t mean that I should write it off and not watch it.
Hopefully, moving forward, we can see the transcendent golfers of future generations play on the classic golf courses of yesterday in a match play format like this one. Hopefully, we get more team matches similar to what Ben and Byron did in the 50s. Hopefully, this is the way that golf viewership grows similar to the viewership rate of MMA in the last few years. The only way that I can help that process along, is by watching it.
So I gave them my $20. I will watch with excitement as the two men who made me love the game at early age, play a match against each other. I’m excited to see how they banter between each other. I’m excited to see how they play. I’m curious to see what Shadow Creek looks like. Tiger and Phil have transcended their sport. They’re one name athletes on the same level as Lebron, Messi, Jeter, Kobe, and Brady. Even if they aren’t in the “prime” of their careers, that doesn’t mean they can’t make magic happen.
I’m team Tiger, always have been. And I hope he can stick it to Phil one more time. I hope the match is close. I hope the sidebets are fun. Most importantly, I hope people watch. Enjoy the Match.