There are two things that everybody should keep in mind about this Tiger-Peyton-Phil-Tom golf match. One is that Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning are clear favorites. Tiger is clearly a better player than Phil Mickelson right now; Tom Brady has said (perhaps kiddingly) that Peyton Manning is better than he is; Phil’s win over Tiger in last year’s Match For Millions Neither Guy Needs probably annoys Tiger just enough for him to take this seriously; and this will all take place on Tiger’s home track, Medalist in Jupiter, Fla., which he prefers to the other pro playgrounds in the area, like Bear’s Club. (For what it’s worth—perhaps nothing—I have been to Medalist once, and in the parking lot, I ran into Peyton Manning. So he knows the course, too.)
The second thing we should keep in mind: If this works, it can’t really be about golf.
We have seen Woods and Mickelson play golf a million times, for far greater stakes, and the appeal of watching Manning and Brady is limited. (Spoiler alert: They are very good golfers, but not as good as pros.) What we haven’t seen is the four of them together for four hours.
We should see Tom and Peyton teasing each other like the old friends they are. I want to see Brady pull-hook a drive and have his partner, Mickelson, ask him if he needs Bill Belichick to help him find the fairway. Woods enjoys juvenile and dirty jokes, and Manning and Brady have spent their lifetimes in locker rooms. Anything they can sneak past the Turner producers is fine with me.
Golf should be the window here. It should give fans a sense of what it is like to spend a few hours with these guys. If you are old enough and enough of a golf dork to remember Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, then you know what I mean.
This should also be the start of a series for charity. The possibilities are richer than you might think. Imagine turning on the TV Sunday and seeing Michael Jordan pull out driver for his match against…Bill Laimbeer.
I actually called Laimbeer this week to see if he would be game for a charity match against Jordan. Laimbeer laughed and said “I’ll pass”—not so much on the match, I think, but on another round of Jordan talk. But come on. There is literally nobody on the planet who enjoys a friendly golf wager more than Michael Jordan. The Last Dance documentary has reminded us: Old basketball feuds are the best feuds and America is still obsessed with Jordan. Are you telling me you wouldn’t watch a series of Michael Jordan golf grudge matches?
I have seen enough awful swings from Draymond Green and Charles Barkley that I would be happy to see them settle their ongoing spat on the course. I’d even watch Steph Curry against J.R. Smith; Curry is good enough that he has entered professional events, and Smith is an absurdly gifted athlete who is crazy about golf. The match would end, of course, with Smith accidentally hitting Curry’s ball, but that’s part of the fun.
Aaron Rodgers against Brett Favre, Tony Romo against Jim Nantz … we just need a sponsor and willing participants. Celebrity golf matches can remind us of who and what we are missing, without trying to replicate the sports we love. This is the problem with televising Korean baseball: The players are skilled and the fans are passionate, but the game doesn’t mean anything to most Americans. It may be very good baseball, but it’s not our baseball. It takes time to emotionally invest in sports. We all know our leagues are coming back eventually. A fling with a far-off league is just not that rewarding.
We still don’t really know if and when our sports will return—and if they do, for how long. I don’t doubt anybody’s desire to start or re-start a season, but in this climate, I question the ability to finish one.
In the meantime, golf is relatively safe, it’s easy to stage, and it can provide a few hours of entertainment. We can’t watch Brady’s debut with the Buccaneers or Mike Trout go for another MVP award with the Angels, but seeing them compete in another sport can be fun, and speaking of which: Trout’s monster drive at TopGolf went viral not long ago.
Somebody, please, go see if that man has a short game. And check on Bryce Harper, too.