Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning beat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in the return of The Match

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning line up a putt.

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning line up a putt during The Match: Champions for Charity.

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The golfers were golfers. Tiger Woods sculpted tee shots and iron shots, and Phil Mickelson crafted pitches and putts. 

The football player golfers were football player golfers. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning hit them left and right, in the trees, over the trees and around the trees, in the water, in the bushes. And, hey, once right smack dab in the middle of the hole from 125 yards out. What! 

Charles Barkley was Charles Barkley. Because Charles Barkley. 

Oh, right, that’s why we love sports. That was a hoot, wasn’t it?

In the second straight week of live golf after several without them due to the coronavirus pandemic, it all came flooding back. (Pun intended toward the Florida rain that drenched the foursome.)

We got a few winners at Sunday’s The Match: Champions for Charity at Medalist Golf Club, the team of Woods and Manning defeating Mickelson and Brady 1 up. Woods and Manning won the third, fourth and sixth holes to go 3 up, Mickelson and Brady won the 11th and the 14th to draw closer, then Woods and Manning hung on. Charity also won, the event raising millions of dollars for coronavirus relief. 

We got the entertainment, too. There was the silly on the 7th. Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion, an NFL legend, had looked like a third-string duffer to that point. PGA Tour star Brooks Koepka had even called into TNT’s broadcast to bet $100K to charity that Brady couldn’t make a par — a single par! — on the front nine. Barkley, he of the historically infamous golf swing, was even goading the GOAT.

Brady’s tee shot on 7 went right. His second and third on the par-5 simply forwarded the ball. To that point, it was that kind of day. And because the players were both mic’d up and had earpieces, Barkley let him hear about things. 

“I want Tom Brady,” Barkley said. “I’m not gonna lie.”

Unintentionally, Barkley might have called Brady’s shot. 

Brady swung, his microphone pack fell off during the backswing, the ball took three bounces when it hit the green, and it circled into the center of the cup. The event’s goat, lowercase, no more. (Though, at some point during the celebration, he split the backside of his pants, and Woods nearly beat him with an eagle 3.)

“Chuck, shut your mouth.” 

“Brooks, how about that?” 

“My wife, my kids, I love you.”

There was the serious on the 18th. 

With Woods and Manning up a hole and Mickelson and Brady needing to halve to force extras, the pros both found the fairway, then Brady came up short on the approach, and Manning hit to within about 40 feet, as the event was played to an alternate shot format on the back nine. Mickelson chipped to about 6 feet, Woods putted it to about a foot, and the match was over. 

Sort of.

“I still want to see Peyton putt it in,” Mickelson joked. 

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning win

The front-nine four-ball format was all Woods and Manning. 

After the teams halved the first two holes, Woods and Manning won the third, fourth and sixth. On the par-5 third, Woods drove it down the middle, winning the hole’s long drive competition, hit his second over, then chipped to about 4 feet before cleaning up for the birdie.  

The par-3 fourth saw another challenge – closest to the hole – another Woods challenge win and another Woods-Manning hole victory. Woods hit to about 8 feet, but didn’t hit again after Manning made a 25-footer for birdie. On the par-4 sixth, the quarterbacks received a stroke, and Manning took it, hitting four shots but recording a 3 to put him and Woods 3-up through six. 

The back-nine modified alternate shot format was all Mickelson and Brady.

The par-4 11th was advertised as drivable, and Mickelson didn’t disappoint, traveling the 330 yards in one shot, and Brady made the 10-footer for an eagle 2. They each missed hole-winning putts on the 12th and 13th, then drew within a hole on the par-4 14th. Brady missed a birdie putt, but he and Mickelson would not concede about a 5-footer for par, and Manning missed. 

Tiger Woods looked like Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods had not played a professional round of golf since the Genesis Invitational in February, missing events first because of an assortment of ailments and then because the PGA Tour suspended play in mid-March because of the coronavirus.

The rest did Woods well. 

On his tee shots, the Trackman red line used on the broadcast never really strayed too far left or too far right, Woods never missing a fairway on his home course. On the last, when he needed to be deliver, he did, hitting his drive dead center and hitting his putt to within about a foot of the hole. Though it’s hard to gauge score in a match-play event, he likely shot 2-under on the front nine – and that’s including a bogey on the 5th hole, where Woods played the entire hole with a 4-iron due to the hole’s single-club challenge.

How did the quarterbacks do?

On the first hole, Brady hit his tee shot low and to the left, and Manning hit his left before having to take an unplayable lie. 

That’s about how things went from there, especially for Brady. 

Some of the lowlights:

On the second, Brady hit his second shot out of bounds. On the third, Brady drove his tee shot well right, then hit a provisional well right, and Manning hit his tee shot well left and out of bounds. On the fourth, with Barkley pledging $50,000 for charity if Brady could hit the green, Brady hit the trees on the right. “Tom, I should have said if you kept it on the planet,” Barkley said. 

Brady redeemed himself on the seventh, and their play cleaned up a bit on the back nine, though the alternate shot format did help some. 

The sideshow

Samuel L. Jackson introduced the players via video. PGA Tour Justin Thomas provided commentary. Charles Barkley did, too, from a booth near the clubhouse. 

And all that happened before any golf was played. 

The players went back and forth with each other. The players went back and forth with the announcers. And the announcers went back and forth with each other. 

They ripped each others’ colleges. Some comments were muted, only to hear laughter after the silence was broken. On the second, with a little bush about 6 yards in front of the tee box, Thomas asked Barkley, “Chuck, you carrying that little shrub there?” On the ninth, with Barkley saying he’d expect a basketball player to dunk after being somewhat unimpressed by a near Woods hole-out from the bunker, Thomas said, “Chuck, I’d love to see your fat a– try and dunk a basketball right.” 

There was a second of silence. 

“Hey, JT, you can’t call me fat on TV, Barkley said. “That’s bullying. I’m going to call H.R. on you.”

Barkley and Thomas were a bit more cordial before the match, with Thomas “coaching” Barkley to try to make a bogey or better on the par-4 18th hole for charity. 

Barkley made a double bogey.  

What’s next?

The real deal. 

After two straight weeks of made-for-TV charity events, the PGA Tour is expected to resume on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. 

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor