The Match: Champions for Charity went about as well as could be expected. No, scratch that; it went much, much better than expected. Not that it had high hurdles to begin with as the second go-round for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The first, held last November 2018, ran into significant technical difficulties, prompting AT&T and other streaming distributors to issue full refunds for the pay-per-view spectacle. And even if the broadcast proceeded smoothly to warrant the $19.99 price tag, the entertainment value through 22 holes left much to be desired.
As things turned out, the weekend brought forth 18 holes of compelling drama, even between shots, among Woods and Mickelson, not to mention partners Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. To be sure, the marquee names had much to do with the interest; they’re intrinsically chatty and, of late, chummy enough to throw in some cutting remarks while in competition. And they’re good with clubs in their hands, never mind the anticipated rust brought about by quarantine protocols during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. The lack of alternative fare ensured a captive audience to start; their constant back and forth, the variety of rules in play, and tight scores in the back nine kept close to six million pairs of eyes glued to the screen until the end.
Considering the objectives, who won the affair was secondary to it actually being held. Certainly, Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound was as good a venue as any, and not simply because it’s Woods’ home course. Florida’s relaxed social-distancing protocols allowed for The Match: Champions for Charity to be planned and held, with the participants tested for the virus beforehand and then staying away from each other, but still within range of trash talk, throughout the contest. And with no caddies in tow, they lugged around custom-painted carts and took out clubs from the bags themselves.
Significantly, The Match: Champions for Charity featured little to no dead air. The presence of Charles Barkley and Justin Thomas, also a Medalist member, helped; in equal measure, they provided insightful knowledge and humorous jabs. For the most part, though, Woods, Mickelson, Manning, and Brady came up with the physical and verbal highlights. At the same time, the rules guaranteed heterogeneity, with the best-ball format in play for the first nine holes and modified alternate shot on display after the turn. There were also call-in and off-the-cuff challenges, which doubled aggregate donations to $20 million.
Moving forward, The Match: Champions for Charity has provided a template after which exhibitions can be patterned. Granted, not all factors can be replicated; beginning with how the Woods-Manning pairing won, and by the smallest of margins, subsequent stagings would be fortunate to come close in generating an edge-of-seat denouement. That said, the format lends well to the notion that the journey is as important as the destination. And, in this regard, organizers are enjoined to tap such larger-than-life types as Mickelson and Brady. Frankly, why not just stage a rematch? Already, all and sundry can’t wait.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.