The Match is back — with plenty of star power. Two of golf’s three most recent major champs are joined by the reigning Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP for a high-octane fourth edition of the series, as first reported by Sports Business Journal and other outlets.
Phil Mickelson, the revitalized PGA champion, will anchor the competition once again. He’ll reunite with reigning Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
They’ll take on 2020 U.S. Open champ Bryson DeChambeau and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a modified alternate-shot match play format.
The competition is set for July 6 and will air on TNT. Perhaps the most surprising twist is the course that will host them: Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Mont. While the acclaimed course ranks No. 3 in Montana in GOLF’s latest state-by-state rankings, it’s rare for any major sporting event to take place in the Treasure State.
There’s no lack of intrigue surrounding this group. Mickelson, who has gotten more comfortable and entertaining with each Match edition, now has the recent results to match the attention paid to the event. It’s fitting that the oldest major champion in golf history will team up with the oldest Super Bowl-winning quarterback in the NFL’s history.
On the other team, DeChambeau has arguably made as many headlines as any other golfer over the course of the past year. He’ll head to Montana a couple weeks removed from his title defense at Torrey Pines. Rodgers, meanwhile, enters the summer in career limbo; he’s still under contract with the Green Bay Packers but his future is decidedly uncertain.
The choice of Moonlight Basin will make for particularly intriguing viewing because it’s a true mountain course. The Jack Nicklaus design is set at 7,500 feet altitude and features severe elevation changes throughout, including an opening tee shot that drops two hundred feet to the fairway.
Mickelson and DeChambeau may tip it out from the “Mill Creek” tees, which measure exactly 8,000 yards, but even if they do they’ll have no problem with length given the altitude. The course’s rating is 76.8 from the tips with a slope of 148.
If the competition stays close on the back nine, Moonlight Basin will feature extra intrigue with three par-3s, three par-4s and three par-5s. The most notable of those par-5s is a 777-yard par-5 (yeah, you read that right) which plays so dramatically downhill it’s actually possible the pros will reach in two.
So why Big Sky? It likely has something to do with Mickelson and Brady’s connection to the nearby Yellowstone Club, where both are members. Brady has spent plenty of his summers in Montana in the past. (The club has made recent tabloid headlines as the alleged retreat of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.)
And because the showdown is a made-for-TV exhibition, there’s no need to hold it near a major metropolitan area; the event won’t rely on ticket sales and admission is likely to be limited. Finally, holding the event in the West will allow for primetime viewing. And the event will serve as a natural lead-in to the American Century Championship, a celebrity event held in Lake Tahoe later that week.
What to watch for
Mickelson has won two of the three previous editions of the event, most recently when paired up with Charles Barkley in November. Last May, he and Brady lost to the team of Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods, so they’ll be looking for redemption. Neither DeChambeau nor Rodgers have played in the series before.
TNT’s coverage will begin at 5 p.m. ET. As in previous editions of the event, players will be mic’d up the entire time and will be able to communicate with the broadcast booth while playing. We can assume they’ll take carts; Moonlight Basin isn’t super conducive to hoofing it, and the carts really helped with TV pacing.
Last year’s editions of the Match proved entertaining and fun; the series seems to be finding its sweet spot. The cast of characters is particularly intriguing this time, with the performative Mickelson, the uber-competitive Brady, the eccentric DeChambeau and the sardonic Rodgers. Legacies aren’t on the line. It’s just fun television.
We’ll be watching.