Apparently, Vegas odds-makers didn’t have much faith in Charles Barkley coming into Friday’s The Match: Champions for Change event in Arizona, with DraftKings Sportsbook installing him and partner Phil Mickelson as steep +138 underdogs. The NBA legend and 25 handicap has long been a laughingstock on the links, boasting one of the ugliest swings in golf.
But that wasn’t the Barkley we witnessed Friday at Stone Canyon. The Hall-of-Famer’s improvement was readily apparent as Phil and Chuck cruised to a cakewalk victory over the heavily-favored likes of Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry and two-time Super Bowl champ Peyton Manning, needing just 15 holes to seal the deal. Long-plagued by an infamous “hitch,” the TNT analyst turned heads with his revamped swing Friday, finding the fairway on each of his first two drives.
Barkley, who was permitted to hit from the noticeably closer “Chuck” tees (except on Par 3s), was still erratic in spurts. This cringey slice, which came to rest somewhere between a row of rocks and a wall of cacti, probably wasn’t what the 57-year-old had in mind.
Neither was this embarrassing putt, which cost him a stroke on the Par 4 eighth hole.
But aside from those hiccups, Friday's performance in the desert was a big step forward for Sir Charles, garnering praise from Patrick Reed and Jayson Tatum (who picked up golf during the NBA’s COVID layoff), among others.
After raising over $5 million for HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) across the country, the only thing that could make Barkley’s weekend any sweeter would be if his alma mater Auburn (displayed proudly on his golf cart) upsets top-ranked Alabama in Saturday’s Iron Bowl. That’s probably wishful thinking—the Tigers are currently pegged as 24-point road underdogs. But if the Round Mound of Rebound can fix his disastrous swing, there’s hope for all of us.