If two 15-handicappers played for $1 million, would you tune in and watch?

pile of cash with flagstick in it

Two weekend hackers playing 18 holes of match play for $1 million? Yes, please.

getty images

If you listen closely, you can still hear America buzzing about the golf event of the year. Collin Morikawa’s stirring win at the PGA Championship? Nope. While the PGA at Harding Park was a thrilling romp in its own right, we speak, of course, of The Match II: Champions for Charity.
 
Rare is the sequel that eclipses the original, but the Match II pulled it off: Tiger hit his irons like Hogan, Phil lit up the stage like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Brady made all of us feel better about our own games by playing the most relatable round of the century. (Having Sir Charles in the booth also never hurts.) To be sure, the timing of the event — pre-summer, with most sports fans still sheltering-in-place and with virtually nothing else to watch — was advantageous, but I fielded more texts from giddy friends about the Match than I have about any tournament before it, the 2019 Masters included.      

tom brady the match

The Match II grades: Sizing up the showdown, from Tiger Woods’ game to Barkley’s quips

By: Dylan Dethier

The Match II undoubtedly elevated our perception of what a made-for-TV exhibition can be. But where do we go from here? Be it the Match III or another concept cooked up by some network’s creative sharpies, what’s the next hook?
 
Here’s a pitch to ponder: high-stakes golf for hackers.
 
The idea is simple: a network announces tryouts for a new reality show for golfers of “average” talent — say, somewhere in the 13 to 17 handicap range. Through that process, the producers identify a couple of players of nearly identical ability and with big personalities that would play well on TV. Weeks later, boom! The producers surprise the two finalists at their homes and tell them that they have 24 hours to meet at the Pebble Beach pro shop. (Any brand-name course would work, but we’re aiming high.)

The par-4 16th at Bandon Dunes.

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Fast-forward a day and the players roll into Pebble looking bewildered. No range time, no practice putts, nothing. Next stop: 1st tee, which is enclosed by a packed grandstand (we’re assuming a post-Covid timeframe). Cameras are everywhere. When they arrive on the box, the contestants are informed that they are about to play one another in match play — for $1 million. Life-changing money. Winner takes all. Oohs, aahs, dropped jaws. But that’s not all! The first-tee announcer reveals that each player will be captained by either Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, who at that moment stroll on to the tee. Coin flip decides who will captain whom, with another million bucks going to the winning captain’s charity of choice.

To make things even more interesting, the captains will also serve as lifelines. The players may elect to have their captain step in and play any six shots on each side (with a maximum of three tee shots per nine).

I can already hear the critics: Who wants to watch a couple of weekend hackers chunk, top and four-putt their way around Pebble? We see that every February with actors and CEOs in the Pro-Am. Alas, that misses the point. The drama in this theatre is not in the shotmaking, or lack thereof — it’s all about the pressure. For viewers, the most gripping element of this format would be watching how contestants handle the metaphorical vise that would increasingly tighten around them with each passing hole.

How to salvage a terrible round, according to low handicaps

By: Luke Kerr-Dineen

The strategy would also be fascinating. Think about it — if you had Tiger or Phil on call to play a handful of shots for you over 18 holes, how would you employ them? Tee shots on short par-4s, or long par-4s? Fifty-foot putt, or five-footer? Buried lie in the rough, or fried egg in a bunker? And do you use them early to try and build a lead, or save them for late to try and drop the hammer? The contestants would be weighing all of these decisions while simultaneously managing their own middling games.

Delicious, right? Well, I think it is. Heck, I might even pay to see it. 

TNT, Fox, NBC, whomever — feel free to run with this idea, no licensing fee required! Seeing high-stakes golf for hackers come to life would be payment enough. 

Alan Bastable

Golf.com

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.