Golf site The Fried Egg broke the news last week that a new iteration of The Match is set for December.
Have heard from multiple sources that the next Match plans to include Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. It's tentatively scheduled for 12/10 at Pelican Golf Club outside of Tampa under the lights.
— The Fried Egg (@the_fried_egg) November 2, 2022
Obviously, the return of Tiger Woods to the exhibition series is a welcome one for everyone involved. No one else in golf is close to the kind of draw that Tiger still is. Considering Tiger is 46 with a body that’s barely holding together after a series of serious injuries, fans, networks, and other golf stakeholders will almost certainly take what they can get at this point.
It’s hard to pick a better group of four current players to build an event like this around. Obviously, some sort of LIV/PGA Tour grudge match, adding in Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and others might be fun, but that had zero chance of happening. The PGA Tour sanctions The Match events with real pros; it was one of Mickelson’s more legitimate gripes about the Tour’s media policies.
In Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas, this version brings plenty of star power. (Though arguably less than versions that featured athletes from other sports, which we’ll get to.) But arriving almost exactly four years after the original iteration with Phil and Tiger, we’ve learned enough by now to have some ideas on how to keep the format fresh going forward.
First and foremost: there should be more action on the course. One of the biggest issues with golf is downtime between shots. The Match has figured this out quickly, adding carts with mics and cameras to facilitate constant chatter and banter, between players and the hosts. That said, there’s still a fair bit of time that could be spent watching other famous people play golf as well. Shane Bacon said it best: give it an undercard.
Considering the amount of eyeballs that will be on Tiger-Rory vs JT-Spieth, I’d love some undercard matches to precede the big show. Get some LPGA player involved. Get Tom Kim on with some other young international studs. Use the platform for honest golf growth!
— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) November 4, 2022
Not only could adding other players and matches on the course help keep action moving on the broadcast, but it could also potentially draw in an entirely new audience. Send the matches out earlier, too, and viewers get to build some anticipation for a main event while also getting familiar with the course before the top teams come through to battle it out. There’s very little downside here.
Speaking of little downside, point number two: this is the seventh version of The Match, which is four years old now. How have no women taken part? The LPGA Tour has a surplus of talented players, even just talented American players. Golf is a sport that allows for fair mixed-gender competition, even before a few slight format tweaks that would pretty much level the playing field entirely. Making it a more inclusive event can only broaden the appeal of something designed for casual viewership.
Finally: get really, really crazy. Not for the whole round, of course, but there’s no reason for a version of The Match to look completely like regular tournament golf. Have them play an arcade-y, obstacle-type hole, a la Nickelodeon’s Slime Golf idea. Who wouldn’t want to see Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas trying to hit moving targets for extra points? Or take a page from Tiger and Rory’s upcoming golf venture and do a simulator hole with some mixed reality elements.
(Honestly, though, I’d much prefer a stadium hole buildout that looked like a Golden Tee par 3 or something.)
Just try different things! What’s there to lose? The franchise has done an excellent job reinventing itself and constantly improving the on-air product. Lean into all of that. Golf maybe more than any other sport could use a few twists sometimes.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Discovery]