Well, that was fun I guess….. 5 hours of golf for $20, not a bad deal for two of the best of all time. Other than the chip in on 17 by Big Cat to level the match going into the final hole, it was a relatively bland match at best. Sir Charles said it best “This is some crappy golf, I could beat these two today!”. Obviously Chuck was joking, but he had a point. This was by no means the gun slinging, birdie barrage that was anticipated by everyone. Still golf is a game, and no matter how good you are, there are going to be days where you aren’t tearing it up. Regardless, there were way bigger issues than the play of Phil and Tiger.
First of all, Charles Barkley, shut the hell up for 5 seconds every now and again. Yes you are funny, yes you know these guys well, yes you suck at golf and its amusing, yes you can trash talk, but for Christ sake, no one cares about your opinion on Justin Verlander’s fastball looking like a beach volleyball during the playoffs. Throw in “Jake’s Shitty Take’s” and it just sounded like a muddled mess of sounds, crappy jokes, and laughing. Having two different groups of commentators, sounds like a good idea in theory, but it was overkill. Unless you are all looking at each other and sitting next to each other, you can’t read when someone is about to talk or not. Fox ran into this issue with their first US Open a couple of years back and started putting everyone in the booth together. One of the big promotional pieces to this event was being able to hear the back and forth of the players to each other and between player and caddie. There were numerous occasions that Phil and Tiger were walking down the fairway telling stories about the good old days or who knows maybe Phil was giving insider stock tips but you couldn’t hear it over the seven commentators. This was the biggest let down for me as a paying viewer.
On the flip side I think Ernie was awesome as usual, Darren Clarke’s voice is a smooth as a pint of Guinness and Pat Perez is a character but knows golf and loves to gamble. Shane Bacon did a fine job on the course, and continues to be one of my favorite up and comers in sports media. All of these guys will be working for him one day. I think that he was under utilized, especially as the match wore on. There was a real opportunity to be by the bag of Phil and Tiger, gaining insight as to what was going thru their head pre-shot or hearing what they thought the other player was going to do. Match play brings out an entirely different set of tactics compared to stroke play and is really a chess match. It would have been awesome to hear what goes thru two of the greats heads in pressure moments, one on one. I think if there are going to be more events like this going forward, that Shane and another on course broadcaster should handle the entire coverage. Each player having their own person assigned to them, going back and forth between shots talking about, lie, club selection, etc.
The last beef I had with the event was how it was hyped up to be a head to head, $9 Million, full of side bets, and serious trash talk. There was some of that but the ending really bothered me. We had a solid 19-hole match, and instead of lighting up the par 5 18th they created a gimmick, 93 yard par 3, off the practice putting green to a newly cut hole on the 18th green. Like come on guys, if you’ve got the money to do this kind of production, what’s another $50k on a one day rental of tower lights to line the 18th fairway. The hole provided some fireworks in regulation and in overtime. It was a tough driving hole for Tiger and Phil ended up with a friend egg in the most random bunker in the world. It just felt like this big match ended up like a church fundraiser hole-in-one shootout raising money for the Knights of Columbus.
All in all, I was entertained for the entire time I was watching. There is definitely a market for these types of exhibition events, I just think the two biggest factors are having the right level of commentary to complement players that have more energy, trash talking ability, and overall energy than Tiger and Phil did. When Tiger is under the lights and in between the ropes he is locked in and it’s hard to break him out of that mode. Phil is just a goober and isn’t that funny, so there was little back and forth. I would love JT, Rickie, Jordan Spieth, and Kevin Kisner (dude is a gamer) in a wolf hammer game, for $1000 dollar dots. Throw Shane Bacon and Soly out there for on course commentary and it would be electric. Regardless, every event like this I’m going to pay the money to watch, so keep’em coming.