By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If we’re all being honest … it looked dicey early on. Real dicey.
With pouring rain dumping all over our four celebrity contestants, with microphones shorting out and a number of communication issues springing up, and with the two non-pros spending more time searching for their balls out of bounds than actually playing golf, “The Match: Champions For Charity” looked like a potential television train wreck on Sunday afternoon.
But then … things settled down. And even though it wasn’t a “real” sporting competition … “The Match” kind of delivered. In a big way.
That’s both in terms of the actual competition and the overall goal, which was to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts. With regard to the former, the match play format came down to the final hole — something that seemed unlikely as late as the 14th tee box. And on the latter, $20 million was raised, which makes the whole thing more than worthwhile.
The end result was, in a world where any and everything must be complained about incessantly, there wasn’t really anything to legitimately complain about. In the year 2020, that counts as a miracle.
And because we love sports here and don’t want to accept that we’re back in a sports-less abyss, let’s run through as many leftover thoughts as humanly possible from this 1-up victory for Woods and Manning over Mickelson and Brady.
–Tiger Woods looks good. And that’s not just because of his competition. Remember, just before everything shut down, Tiger withdrew from The Players Championship with a back injury. Considering his history, that was concerning, even though he vowed to be ready for The Masters in April.
Turns out, shutting down the sport for a couple of months was a net positive for Woods, who looked very much like Tiger Woods throughout the day in Sunday, despite the conditions. His drives were money, his precision on a bunker shot on the ninth hole was preposterous, his putter was on (even though his eagle putt rolled in and out on the seventh), and it looked like he was barely even trying.
It looks like, when the PGA season kicks off in a couple of weeks, we just might get a “full” Tiger season after all.
–I mean, watch this 29-second sizzle reel and tell me that this man won’t win 11 tournaments this year.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 25, 2020
Can we move The Masters up to this week?
–Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, looked a bit rusty. As you might expect. As any Tom, Dick, and Harry can attest, it’s difficult to go from 0 to 100 on the golf course when you haven’t played much. In that regard, Phil was just like one of us as he jacked a few drives into the mulch and missed almost every green on the course.
Alas, whenever Phil was operating from 100 yards and in, he was a cyborg. He plays a different game than most everyone else on earth, what with his “delayed sauce” and ridiculous wedge work. He came up with a huge putt late, too, after Brady rolled his putt about 10 feet too long.
–Peyton Manning was surprisingly good, don’t you think? It did take him a few holes to really get rolling, but his work with long irons in the fairways particularly stood out. He was able to fit right in, which — when you’re playing with Tiger and Phil — is kind of a massive accomplishment.
“Phil said he was nervous. I know Tom and I were comparing notes,” Manning said afterwards. “To be behind the ropes in these guys’ worlds, to be in the arena with them, it was really a special experience. I was not comfortable the entire time.”
That’s more than understandable. Imagine playing with Tiger and Phil? By itself, that would be incredibly intimidating. Throw in the cameras and the millions of viewers and the presence of your greatest rival, too, and it’s quite the challenge. Manning answered it pretty well.
–And then there was Tom Brady. Ah, yes. Tom Brady. Realistically, by the end of the round, Brady had saved face in a big way. After holing out from the fairway on the seventh, Brady was pretty good. But by that point, the story of “Wow, My Goodness, Tom Brady STINKS At Golf” had already been cemented in viewers’ collective consciousness.
That’s a tough break. But he’s Tom Brady. He’ll be all right.
(Let the scientific record show that it takes precisely 90 minutes of practice for Tom Brady to get good at something.)
–At least the Bucs can feel comfortable knowing Brady hasn’t wasted a second of his offseason by playing golf. Head in the playbook.
–If you watched this event and thought anything other than “I’d probably shoot about a 200 at Medalist,” then you’re either highly delusional or you should be a tour pro. Doesn’t feel like there’s an in-between.
–On that note, I was struck by Brady and Manning having to use the regular tees, while Tiger and Phil played the “Tiger tees.” It was obviously necessary, as two non-pros would look even worse if they had to play the extra 329 yards added by the big boy tees. Nevertheless, the image of seeing two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — two men who have been alphas throughout their athletic lives — reduced to bumbling ahead to play their front tees like little kids golfing with dad was humorous.
–It was damn impressive that arguably the two biggest putts of the match were made by Brady and Manning. Peyton’s came early, when he drained a birdie on the fourth:
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) May 24, 2020
Brady’s came later, when he finished off an eagle after Phil drove the green on 11.
Will a player make an eagle?
Yes (+250) cashes with this putt from Brady
— Barstool Bets (@barstoolbets) May 24, 2020
–It was very on brand for Brady to start horribly, have everyone count him out, and then hit a shot that 99 percent of golfers never make* in their lives.
Tom Brady STICKS IT 🎯
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 24, 2020
*Sure we’ve all gotten lucky and holed out from the fairway before. But generally not with that sweet, sweet backspin.
–Even in his happiest moments, Tom Brady is forever haunted by Super Bowl LII.
After joking about how he’ll close strong…
Announcer: “These aren’t the Falcons that you’re playing against, Tiger’s a pretty good closer.”
— Eagles Nation (@PHLEaglesNation) May 24, 2020
Justin Thomas should have followed that up by asking Brady why Malcolm Butler didn’t play. Hey we’re all wondering, you know?
–The trash talk was kind of lame. Peyton Manning is a lot funnier when he has a room full of comedians writing his material. Brady is a family man and thus held himself back from spewing about 3,571 swears. (I do imagine it was Brady’s fault when the audio cut out on TNT, the same way it did whenever Kevin Garnett got tangled up with an opponent under the basket.)
Tiger, Peyton, Brady and Phil wouldn't stop roasting each other 🤣
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 25, 2020
At one point, after Peyton missed a putt, Brady said, “Eli would’ve made it.” Which would be good trash talk … if it didn’t come at Brady’s own expense.
Peyton’s best attempt came on the range:
Reporter: Who do you bring as your caddie?
Peyton Manning: "Do you bring Eli? You could do that. Do you bring Nick Foles? Maybe."
Tom Brady: "That's a cheap shot."
Manning: "I'm thinking maybe Belichick."pic.twitter.com/3yyrlyeSQ1
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) May 24, 2020
That set has some good bones but could use some tightening.
–Tiger, Phil and Peyton had outstanding custom made cards. Incredible stuff.
Tiger’s was looking sharp, with splashes of Sunday red, his TW logo, his autograph, and a Nike swoosh to make it stand out. Peyton’s had a football with an American flag on the front, with nods to his time in Tennessee, Denver, and of course Indianapolis. Phil’s was clean but sharp, with his sweet logo on the front and the back.
And then there was Tom’s.
Brady had a cart with like, three TB12 stickers on it.
And … Tom’s:
That’s not even his logo.
What the heck? It looks like someone rushed to Walmart and bought some mailbox stickers to hastily put something together at the last minute.
Apparently, Florida Tom has turned into Minimalist Tom.
–That wasn’t the most embarrassing look for Brady though. As you’ve surely heard by now, he split his pants right on the butt as he leaned over to retrieve his ball from the hole after his incredible shot.
The image is everywhere. You’ll never see it here. I’m far too sophisticated to try to steal a cheap laugh from an unfortunately placed wardrobe malfunction. That’s low-brow humor. And we’re just far too mature (pronounced “muh-TORE”) to engage in such sophomoric tomfoolery. Shame on you for even wanting that.
–At the SAME time …
Pants under repair. pic.twitter.com/dURUn4WdNl
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) May 24, 2020
Brady at least made a joke out of it:
Pants wanted in on social distancing I guess… https://t.co/PJBPyFWowI
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) May 25, 2020
–The underrated aspect of Brady’s hole-out on 7 was that the battery pack for either his microphone or IFB flew off during the swing.
He should have tried to make that happen more often, I guess.
–Got a little moist out there.
I was selfishly hoping they’d cut it off when the downpours came in the middle of the round, leading to some more live sports programming on Monday. But they endured.
–I know that the PGA Tour is coming back in a couple of weeks. But if any network wants to have Phil Mickelson host an instructional short game show, I think we’d all tune in.
Listening to everything Phil said while standing on the periphery of the green and then watching what he did in those spots was easily the best part of Sunday’s event.
–Not sure what this was about:
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) May 24, 2020
Russ came about thiiiisss close to being able to haggle Tom Brady in perpetuity. Alas, Malcolm Butler existed, so memes like that seem strange. (That’s two Malcolm Butler references in a golf story, a new world record.)
Wilson ended up donating 300,000 meals to people who need them, so that was cool. Brooks Koepka also ended up donating $100,000 after challenging Brady to make a par (so disrespectful, Brooks.).
–Brady plays Titleist 12’s. Of course he does.
–The term “GOAT” gets thrown around with such nonchalance these days that it’s really sapped the term of all meaning. Every new up-and-comer gets labeled as “The GOAT” before really accomplishing much of anything. It’s annoying.
The reality is … Michael Jordan is the GOAT. Tom Brady is the GOAT. Tiger Woods is the GOAT.
Kareem won more MVPs than Jordan. And a lot of Celtics — most notably Bill Russell — won more titles than MJ. But nobody has even been the singular force on and off the court that Jordan was and remains. (LeBron is as close as it gets, but don’t do that.)
Woods is still three behind Jack Nicklaus in the majors department, but he’s one tournament victory shy of setting the all-time record for wins. He revolutionized the sport, drew millions upon millions of fans to the game, and remains the biggest name in golf in 2020, just as it’s been every year since 1997. He is the GOAT, and that’s no disrespect to those who came before him.
And then there’s Brady. He’s not only the GOAT, with his six Super Bowl wins and nine appearances, but he’s still playing far past the age that any great quarterback has ever made it. He may not really be a human being, which may actually disqualify him from GOAT discussions. But until that’s scientifically proven, he’ll hold that title.
ANYWAYS, that’s all a very long-winded way of saying that this visual was pretty damn cool to see throughout the weekend:
Two GOATs. One shot. Pretty cool.
–Speaking of sports … that ending was SWEET. I don’t know what you expected out of this, but I thought it would be more of a TV spectacle than a real competition. In retrospect, that was foolish. All four participants are extraordinarily competitive, and though they were there for charitable reasons and not to win their own dough, there’s no way that any of them was going to roll over and accept defeat.
And it all led to a dynamic ending. After the Woods/Manning duo went three-up through six, they held that same lead for four holes, it looked like we were in for a dud of an ending. Instead, what we got was pretty fantastic.
With the alternate-shot format on the back nine, you had Brady draining the aforementioned eagle putt, another Brady putt lipping out on what would’ve been a bird, Manning missing a gimme, three players assaulting the flagstick on the par-3 16th, match-saving putts from Phil on 15 and 16, and a victory-sealing bomb of a lag putt from Tiger on 18. That last one was actually kind of a disappointment, as it would have made for much better television for Manning to have to sink a simple 6-footer to win the event.
Nevertheless, that was good, clean fun. Considering we all haven’t had an excuse to melt into puddles on our couches for an entire Sunday afternoon, it was just what we all needed to remember that hey … these sports things are pretty cool.