The sequel to Tiger Woods’ and Phil Mickelson’s “The Match,” this time including the likes of future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, was a ratings sensation, drawing a peak of 6.3 million viewers on TNT this past Sunday. The event’s average viewership (5.8 million) was the largest cable audience for a golf event in TV history. The golfers also raised over $20 million for COVID relief efforts.
Arash Markazi says there’s plenty more where that came from. The Los Angeles Times columnist reported Wednesday morning that TNT is in “talks” to make “The Match” an annual event.
We knew there would be a third installment to Woods vs. Mickelson—the two golfers agreed to play that many times when the event was first conceived in 2018. Splitting the first two contests (Phil won the opener in Las Vegas) to set up a rubber match makes Round 3 a no-brainer. This year’s Phil/Tiger showdown had been slated for June 2nd—the same day as Game 1 of the NBA Finals—but TNT moved it up a week and made the event for charity following the coronavirus outbreak.
TV executive Bryan Zuriff, who pitched the initial “Match” to Mickelson years earlier, considered Sunday’s 18 holes at Medalist—Tiger Woods’ home course in Hobe Sound, Florida—a marked improvement on Phil and Tiger’s first meeting in November of 2018. “We decided if we wanted to keep this going, we need to bring in some new blood,” explained Zuriff. “We needed to do it with non-golfers because if we did it with golfers, it’s going to be great golf but we’re going to have the same problem. They’re going to get quiet down the stretch and it’s not going to be entertaining.”
Zuriff’s original plan was to include Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry, a scratch golfer who has competed in past tour events, but the network instead opted for Manning, citing his rivalry with Brady. Woods and Manning also share the same representation.
Who could we see play alongside Tiger and Phil next? Mickelson has a few ideas. “What if Tiger and I were to team up and take on two younger players, or what if we were to team up with younger players and have it be a real high-level golf competition?” the three-time Masters champion suggested. “I think there’s a market for that.” Mickelson mentioned Justin Thomas, who provided color commentary for Sunday’s rainy round at Medalist, as a prime “Match” candidate while also mentioning Curry, Michael Jordan, Tony Romo, Patrick Mahomes and even comedians Larry David and Bill Murray as potential participants.
“We like this event for the day after Thanksgiving,” Zuriff acknowledged. “We envision it once a year depending on schedules and health but we like the charitable component of giving back.”