Turner Sports has rounded up a foursome for its third incarnation of The Match, a charity golf event the programmer first introduced back in 2018. Teeing off on Friday, Nov. 27 are three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and trash-talking pro-am habitué/Nationwide spokesman Peyton Manning, both of whom played in last spring’s round.
Joining the two Match veterans are thrice-crowned NBA champ and scratch golfer Steph Curry and … Charles Barkley. If nothing else, the inclusion of Turner’s irrepressible studio analyst should make for a diverting couple hours of TV, even if the actual match play may leave something to be desired. The mechanics of Sir Charles’ stroke are as ungainly as a mis-buttoned shirt; on the downswing, the club head drops toward the ball with all the fluidity of one those giant mallets used in carnival strongman games.
Details about The Match 3: Champions for Change were confirmed by sources involved in the logistics of scheduling the event. Turner Sports declined to comment on the matter.
Curry and Barkley will fill in for Tiger Woods, who is Tiger Woods, and Tom Brady, the Florida man who, during Turner’s May 24 charity match, split his pants while holing out from the seventh fairway for birdie. While Barkley didn’t play in the previous made-for-TV production, he was on hand to provide analysis—which, in the early going, largely consisted of roasting a disarmingly hapless Brady.
Among some of the afternoon’s other highlights were Mickelson’s motormouthed repartee, especially as it stood in relation to Tiger’s familiar brand of robotic stoicism, Barkley’s threat to sic Turner HR on Justin Thomas in retaliation for his on-air bullying (Thomas called Chuck “fat-ass”) and Tiger’s comically oversized shorts.
If neither Match newcomer is going to make anyone forget Tiger Woods, Curry’s certainly no slouch when he’s hoisting his Callaways. Aside from ensuring that at least one of the new guys will shine in the best-ball format on the front nine, Curry’s philanthropic leanings are in sync with Turner’s own altruistic philosophy; per sources who’ve been involved with mapping out November’s event, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are expected to be the beneficiaries of this particular charitable endeavor.
As it happens, Curry has shown considerable interest in one of the nation’s most preeminent HBCUs. About a year ago, the hoops legend announced that he would fund Howard University’s long-dormant golf program through the 2025-26 academic season.
Also doing a good deal of heavy lifting is Capital One, which has re-upped as the title sponsor of Turner’s links showdown. The spring simulcast drew a great deal of interest from a number of endemic categories, including automotive, insurance and beer. Turner last spring sold the last of its in-match airtime across the four participating networks (TNT, TBS, truTV and HLN) a good two weeks before tee time.
The Match 2 event generated some $20 million for COVID-19 relief, as sponsors and viewers effectively matched the $10 million donated by WarnerMedia and the participating golfers. A good chunk of money was pledged in light of our nation’s seemingly inexhaustible delight in trolling Brady. Early in the match, Barkley said he’d donate $50,000 if Brady could somehow manage to hit a green or simply keep his increasingly errant ball on the surface of the planet. Golfer Brooks Koepka then said that he’d kick in $100,000 if the flailing QB could sink a par on the front nine, whereupon the Brady served up the aforementioned pants-rending birdie. The upshot was that an awful lot of money was generated over the course of a long, rainy afternoon, and Americans of all stripes were given the rare opportunity to dunk all over the GOAT.
The spring simulcast averaged 5.67 million viewers and a 3.4 household rating, making it the most-watched golf telecast in the history of cable TV. That the event generated as many impressions as it did despite a 45-minute rain delay speaks to how ravenous Americans were for sports programming after two months of having to do without.
Along with the simple joys of watching some of the most storied athletes of our time struggle to hit a stationary ball while being verbally abused by their peers, Turner’s May event was much more in keeping with what fans were hoping to see during the original Phil vs. Tiger Match, which streamed on its B/R Live platform and via various cable pay-per-view services on Black Friday 2018. While many will recall the technical glitches that resulted in Turner refunding the $19.99 PPV fee, perhaps the biggest let-down had to do with the match itself, which was characterized by less-than-stellar play and the weirdly subdued interpersonal dynamic between the two pros.
The Match 2 sorted out most, if not all, of the shortcomings of the inaugural event. If enthusiasm is a leading indicator for how the next installment might shake out, let it be noted that Steph Curry’s been champing at the bit for the last five months.