This week, Charles Barkley is putting his golf game on display in front of a large public audience when he tees it up alongside partner Phil Mickelson in The Match 3. We’ve never seen Barkley’s game put to the test quite like this, but we’ve seen — and heard — plenty from the NBA legend on and around the course. This is hardly an exhaustive list, but here are nine Barkley golf moments well worth your while.
1. The Jordan Betrayal
Some of Barkley’s best golf stories come from times with his longtime playing partner — and partner-in-crime — Michael Jordan. But never were the two more honest about their respective golf habits than during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2005.
“You all play together?” Oprah asks.
“No,” Jordan says.
Barkley interjects. “He refuses to play with me anymore because I’m so bad.”
That’s when Jordan delivers a particularly honest description of Barkley’s yips.
“Well, he’s sick,” he says. “He’s got a sickness. I guess he went to a guy — he used to be really good. People don’t realize when they see him on TV that he used to shoot 75, 76, 77. And he went to this instructor; this instructor says, ‘Make it seem like you’re stopping up top so you can get your tempo.’
“He hasn’t started since.”
Barkley is a good sport about it — that’s a common theme.
“I’ve got a problem, Oprah,” he says. They show B-roll. Oprah gets in on the razzing, too. The crowd laughs.
“I have a mental block. I do. I have no idea how it started and I’ve tried everything. I got hypnotized…all I got was a good nap.”
If you want a deeply honest look at how Barkley sees the yips, give it a watch:
In 2018, Barkley and his TNT crew started the “Black Masters,” an invite-only celebrity golf tournament featuring the “Inside the NBA” crew of host Ernie Johnson, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny “The Jet” Smith. It should come as no surprise that Barkley himself was the main event — especially with a shot tracer on him. Enjoy:
3. The Charity Ban
In 2016, Barkley went on Stephen Colbert’s show to break down, among other things, his golf game. Colbert gave him a proper razzing:
“I don’t understand why you crank all the way back, go halfway, stop and then kind of whack it. You could do that same drive with a putter!”
But when Colbert asks if Barkley plays charity tournaments and Barkley replies, “I do not,” it’s clear there’s more to the story. That’s where it gets really good.
“I don’t like doing charity tournaments because I’ve actually hit a few people,” Barkley says. “It’s very nerve-racking. Because once you’ve hit the first person, you get really nervous after that; you’re like, ‘I could really hurt somebody.’ I don’t like playing in front of crowds because I get really nervous.”
4. The $1000 concession
We promised more Michael Jordan; here you go. On an episode of Subpar earlier this year, Barkley — who knows his way around a big bet — dished on Jordan’s big-money golf habits.
“We were playing golf one day, and I think we were playing for $1,000 a hole,” Barkley said. “And I was shaking over this putt. And he says, ‘That’s good.’ It was a good-sized putt. He says, ‘Hey, you might step in my line. That putt is good.’”
Barkley pointed out the significance of the putt to their match, but Jordan couldn’t be bothered.
“I don’t want you standing in my line,” Jordan told him.
“I said, ‘How much is that putt for?’” Barkley said. “He said, ‘$100,000.’ I said, ‘WHAT!’”
5. Meeting Tiger
During his time with the Phoenix Suns, Barkley said he watched Tiger Woods when he played in the Phoenix Open, but didn’t know him or speak to him. Apparently, he was on Woods’ radar. When he hosted an Auburn benefit golf tournament a year or two later, at Grand Cypress in Orlando, he got a call from a certain local resident.
“Somebody calls somebody, says ‘Hey, Tiger Woods lives up the street. He wants to come to the party,’” Barkley recalled on Subpar. He was at Planet Hollywood at a party tied to the event. “I’m like, Is that a stupid question. Of course he can come to the party! I think this was like when he first went pro.
“Honestly it was crazy because he shows up and everyone was like, going crazy. He was awesome. And then my tournament was the next day, so he comes and socializes and we all have a great time and sit around. And after he says, ‘How long you guys going to be in town?’ That was a Sunday night … we were going to play golf Monday and then leave. And we’re like, ‘What you got in mind?’ He says, ‘If you guys hang around we can play golf.’ Oh, yeah, hell yeah we gonna stay here and play golf with you.”
Barkley said he ended up staying and playing golf with Woods on Tuesday and Wednesday.
6. Meeting Phil
Barkley had a memorable meeting with his Match 3 partner, too, through Mickelson’s now-wife, Amy, which the two recounted on Mickelson’s social media pages on Thursday.
She was on the cheerleading squad for the Phoenix Suns when Barkley was on the team, and one day she asked if he’d like to play golf with her boyfriend.
“Amy was the greatest lady, I got to know her really well. And when I got traded to Phoenix, things were really really hectic, so I had a tight schedule. She says to me, ‘Hey, will you play golf with my boyfriend Phil?’
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, okay.’
“Like a month later she says, ‘Are you gonna play golf with my boyfriend Phil?’
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play golf with your boyfriend Phil.’
“And finally, three months in, she goes, ‘Are you ever going to play golf with my boyfriend Phil?’
“And I’m like, ‘Okay Amy, what’s the deal? What’s his name?’ And she’s like, ‘Phil Mickelson.’ I said, ‘You’re going out with Phil Mickelson? Amy, in the future, you start out with ‘my boyfriend Phil Mickelson.’ I thought you were going out with Phil the bartender!’ I would have canceled everything to go play golf with the great Phil Mickelson.”
The rest is history.
7. The blunt review
Barkley’s admiration of Mickelson and Woods doesn’t mean that they’re above his relentless, brutal honesty. Barkley made that clear in the first edition of the Match, when the two squared off in Las Vegas in a less-than-stellar one-on-one matchup. By the turn, Barkley — who was calling the match for Turner — had seen enough.
“This is some crappy golf,” Barkley said when Tiger and Phil were on the 9th hole. “Y’all know that. I could beat these two guys today.”
Credit to Barkley; now he’s putting his golf where his mouth was as he makes his on-course franchise debut. How that will go remains anyone’s guess.
8. Hallway golf
Look, this one’s not a legend or a hard-to-believe story. It’s just Barkley, Jimmy Fallon and Hugh Grant running around a New York City studio playing some version of golf, hockey and NASCAR. That alone makes it worth your time — and note that Barkley got robbed of the win thanks to some questionable sportsmanship from the host himself.
9. The opening tee shot
The best part of Barkley’s TNT crew is their ability to jab at each other, night after night after night. So when Barkley broke his driver on the very first hole of a pro-am, they were there to give him a proper hard time:
The entire sequence post-impact is terrific, and Barkley’s deadpan sells it.
“That’s amazing,” Barkley says. “The driver head went farther than the ball!”
By the end of the video, he says Bo Jackson gave him a new one, claims he shot even par and gets on Nike to send him a new driver. Never a sentence wasted.
Barkley remains the best sport.