Column: Phil Mickelson is ready to make ‘The Match’ an annual event

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have twice been feature in "The Match" showdowns, and there is momentum to make it an annual event.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have twice been featured in “The Match” showdowns, and there is momentum to make it an annual event.
(Harry How / Getty Images for ‘The Match’)

After the success Sunday of “The Match: Champions for Charity” golf exhibition in which Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning defeated Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady to help raise $20 million for COVID-19 relief, there are talks to make “The Match” an annual event featuring Woods and Mickelson.

Woods and Mickelson faced off in the first exhibition, “The Match: Tiger vs. Phil,” on Nov. 23, 2018.

Bryan Zuriff, a film and TV producer, thought of the event and pitched it to Mickelson. The issue with the first match, which Mickelson won, was that the golf was good but it wasn’t entertaining for casual fans.

“They clamped up down the stretch,” Zuriff said of the golfers’ banter. “We decided if we wanted to keep this going, we need to bring in some new blood. 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 idea was to bring in Brady, but he initially had someone other than Manning in mind for Woods’ partner.

“At the time I was thinking Tom and Steph Curry because Steph had just signed a deal with Callaway and he was into golf,” Zuriff said.

Manning ended up getting the nod, Zuriff said, because he “is represented by the same people who represent Tiger and there was a natural rivalry [with Brady] there. It was perfect.”

That doesn’t mean other athletes and celebrities won’t get their chance to play with Woods and Mickelson in the future. Sunday’s event, which averaged 5.8 million viewers and peaked at 6.3 million viewers — making it the most-watched golf telecast in cable television history — did so well Mickelson has started brainstorming future pairings for “The Match.”

“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?” Mickelson said. “I think there’s a market for that. But you have to have some personality in there, too, so a guy like Justin Thomas showed how funny he is and he would add a lot to an event like that.

“I think you could showcase guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan or Tony Romo and Patrick Mahomes, who are all good golfers, elite talents and have great personalities. Those personalities are going to come out with this event. Or you could have someone who loves the game and is competitive but is really entertaining like Larry David and Bill Murray. I think that could shine.”

Woods and Mickelson originally agreed to three events, and a third makes sense after they split the first two. Mickelson believes there is a market for “The Match” to continue after the rubber match.

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“I don’t know what specifically it will look like but it would be a competition while also being entertaining and getting the right mixture of individuals to have their personalities come out the way Peyton and Tom shined in this last one,” Mickelson said. “They were humanized with their golf game yet they were competitive and they were funny and entertaining. They let their sense of humor come out. It’s about finding the right mix of those competitors and I don’t think we could get two better guys than who we had in Peyton and Tom. Going forward that will be the challenge. How do we improve on that?”

The original plan for Sunday’s event, which was held at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., was to hold it on June 2, a day after what would have been Game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals, with both events airing on TNT. The COVID-19 pandemic not only changed the schedule but changed the focus to a charitable event, which Zuriff believes will continue to be a part of “The Match” format moving forward.

“We like this event for the day after Thanksgiving,” Zuriff said. “We envision it once a year depending on schedules and health but we like the charitable component of giving back.”

Mickelson believes it could be a new tradition in sports.

“I thought we learned a lot from the first match to make the second one much better and I think we can continue to add on to that,” he said. “Having a partner provided for more interaction and I thought the intimacy of the cameras in the golf cart added a ton. These are elements that we’re going to build on going forward and make it even better.”