A graphic for the ninth edition of The Match. (TNT Sports.) A graphic for the ninth edition of The Match. (TNT Sports.)

Monday night’s The Match (6:30 p.m. across TNT, truTV, HLN, and Max’s B/R Sports add-on) is the ninth version of that TNT Sports franchise, but the first to feature women competing. LPGA Tour golfers Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang will take part here alongside PGA Tour golfers Max Homa and Rory McIlroy, with the event featuring a 12-hole skins format live from The Park in West Palm Beach, Florida. The women will use the same tee boxes as the men on the four par-3 holes, and different ones on the remaining holes.

The winner of each hole will generate a specific amount of donations towards the event’s charity, First Tee, which aims to provide all kids with access to opportunities while making golf affordable and accessible. The first four holes will be worth $100,000 each, with that rising to $150,000 for the next four, $200,000 for holes 8-11, and $500,000 for the final hole. There also are sponsored donations on each of the par-3s, generating $100,000 for closest-to-the-pin and $1 million for a hole in one. The golfer who generates the most donations will be deemed the winner.

Ahead of the event, all four golfers took part in a virtual press conference last week. There, they had some particularly interesting things to say on the importance of this being the first The Match with female golfers, and what that means in an overall context of women’s golf and women’s sports. To start with, Thompson said it’s great to see more mixed events like this, following the Grant Thornton Invitational (she took part in that inaugural mixed PGA Tour/LPGA Tour team event this December).

“I think it’s just an amazing format to be alongside the guys and have a team aspect to it. Golf being such an individual sport, we don’t have this opportunity very much, especially alongside the guys. It’s great to be paired up with them; it’s a lot more fun, and I get to learn a lot, and see some pretty amazing shots. It’s the fun side of golf, it’s not one-on-one, and it’s just a lot more fun, and I think fans really enjoy it as well.”

Zhang said she can’t wait for this opportunity.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity for us to tee it up with the men. You know, growing up, there weren’t a lot of female players around me. You kind of see the men’s side, and you’ve watched them play golf your entire life, so being able to tee up alongside someone like Rory and Max that I’ve kind of looked up to since I’ve started golf, it’s kind of a really cool turnaround moment for me. And like Lexi reiterated before, you definitely learn a lot from the men’s side in the game perspective.”

She said she’s particularly excited to see how her fellow competitors approach the short game.

“Obviously, on the men’s side, they’re hitting it farther, and seeing the golf ball fly. And Lexi’s too, they all hit the golf ball miles. But I’m very interested in seeing how the short game and putting is. In order to have that sort of touch especially on tour on a week to week basis, it will be really cool to see how they make magic with their hands.”

McIlroy took part in the seventh version of The Match back in December 2022, teaming with Tiger Woods against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. He said that was an enjoyable experience, and he thinks the event as a whole has worked well for fans.

“The one cool thing about The Match is you sort of get a more personal insight into how people play or how they think themselves around the golf course. Obviously, we’re mic’d up and try to provide as much insight as we possibly can. But also, in the past with some of the athletes that have played, I think there’s just that relatability factor to the fan; these guys are on national television and playing a game they’re probably not super comfortable with. That relatability to a fan at home I think has been pretty cool.”

But he said he’s particularly excited for this event given the history being made with women competing.

“This one coming up is going to be really interesting because you’ve got the contrast between how Max and I see things from the men’s side and how Rose and Lexi see things from the women’s side, and maybe how we might approach the golf course differently or the different shots we might hit. So I think this iteration of The Match is going to be really interesting just to see the difference in the thought process between the men and the women.”

McIlroy said he sees mixed events as a good way to let the women show off what they can do.

“I think it’s just all about the platform. If we can give the women a great platform to showcase their skills, whether it be the Grant Thornton or matches like this or a combined U.S. Open like we did at Pinehurst, things like that, I think it can only be good for the game of golf as a whole.

“I think other sports have had it easier to integrate men and women in the same venues, for example tennis with the Grand Slams, I think both men and women have benefited from having those combined venues and combined tournaments. I don’t know if golf can get all the way there just with logistics, you might need two courses and all that sort of stuff, but if it can get closer to that…we’re at least on a journey of trying to produce these events where the men and the women can come together a little more often, and I think it’s great for everyone.”

He said that was a big reason why he signed on for this version of The Match.

“The platform that it gives the women I felt was really, really important. Prime time, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the game of golf as a whole to be a little more accessible and a little more relatable.”

Thompson said this was an easy thing to sign up for, given the charity dimension in particular.

“It was basically a no-brainer. It’s a huge honor just to be a part of it. …Not only are we teeing up just to play, but it’s giving back to charities, multiple charities. And to be able to make a difference, it’s a bigger picture involved, and I’m just honored to be a part of it.

She also thinks events like this are a great way to boost women’s golf.

“I think it’s very important. As a women’s golfer, we’re really just trying to grow the game, and I think we’re moving in the right direction. And I really think that includes moments like this for myself and Rose, to be able to tee it up with the guys and just really grow our fanbase even more and just grow the game.

“As athletes, we just want to leave the sport in a better space than it was when we first stepped out here. To be able to see the women’s movement in the game of golf going in the right direction, that’s really all we want to see. We want to continue to grow our fanbase. And I think it’s events like this, events that are teams, and matchup with the guys, and hopefully many more of these kinds of events, I think it just moves us in the right direction on both sides, men’s and women’s.”

She added that she thinks this fits with the overall success women’s sports are having and the attention they’re drawing.

“There’s just so much momentum right now in women’s sports in general. If you look at this past week with Caitlin Clark breaking the [NCAA-era] scoring record for most points, the three-point contest with Steph and Sabrina, these are all events that everyone has tuned into because it’s so different from previous years of men individually playing and women individually playing.

“And The Match essentially is all about having fun, and our purpose is to give back to charity. So it’s almost kind of a perfect combination of men and women growing the game together but also having a good time. And that appeals to a different sort of audience, as opposed to before where golf may have been very strict and maybe a little more serious than people would have liked.”

Read on for more from the golfers on what they’re looking to learn from each other and the value they see in this event.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.