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Night golf was a big hit for The Match VII.
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, our team discusses The Match VII between Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth and a recent report on LIV Golf’s early days.
1. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas faced off under the lights in The Match VII on Saturday in Florida — the first time the made-for-TV event has featured a foursome of pro golfers. What were your thoughts on it (does night golf work?!), and what was the best moment of the night?
James Colgan, Assistant Editor (@jamescolgan26): Golf Television, like fireworks and dry Martinis, is best enjoyed during the evening hours. I liked the primetime component, and I’m sure the executives at Turner Sports did, too. The Match isn’t ever going to be something that satisfies the diehards, but it’s also not trying to be that. I appreciate it for what it does for casual golf fans, and that’s about it.
Jack Hirsh, Assistant Editor (@JR_HIRSHey): Night golf — and by extension primetime golf — had a big win Saturday night. We’ve seen it a few times before, but this was clearly the best. I’m not saying it should be used often, but seeing night golf maybe once a year would be a good balance between what fans want, what players want and keeping the allure of the rareness. The pros struggled with the shadows, which is why every course shouldn’t start building lights to host Tour events, but it was cool for the short window and could definitely attract a new audience. The best moment was Barkley complementing Thomas’ calves.
Sean Zak, Senior Writer (@sean_zak): The most entertaining moment was the one-club challenge, where Tiger had to hit wicked hooks just to get the maximum distance and top spin. At the same time, Justin Thomas going 5 wood-5 wood-5 wood-5 wood for a par 4 was delightful. It’s so fascinating seeing these guys have to figure stuff out on the fly.
Dylan Dethier, Senior Writer (@dylan_dethier): On its surface, golf seems like the sport least suited to being played under the lights. It’s kind of insane, really. Par-3s are the size of football fields, and think about how many lights those bad boys require! As it turns out, night golf was dreamy. High-wattage. Not even Jordan Spieth could hit it into the dark.
The best moment was Jordan Spieth walking us through the process of hitting a bunker shot in real-time — and then promptly pulling it off. I wonder if talking us through it quieted his own mind…
2. Which player do you think was the night’s MVP (from an entertainment standpoint), and did Tiger’s play give us any hints about his current form, or what we might see from him in 2023?
Colgan: The MVP was once again Charles Barkley, who has a unique gift for speaking to the exact audience The Match targets. As it relates to Tiger, there’s an old saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth that I think is appropriate.
Hirsh: Agree with James here, Chuck made this really entertaining. Had he not been there, Brian Anderson and Trevor Immelman would have really struggled to provide color to a product that so desperately needed it. I’m a huge fan of Immelman as a color man, but The Match is very different from a regular broadcast. Thomas making all the alpha moves made him the player MVP. Meanwhile, we already knew Woods still had speed from his appearances earlier this year. The biggest question is his stamina, which was not answered at all last night.
Zak: The MVP was not Chuck. He was more reserved than he’s ever been on a Match, best I could tell. The MVP was Spieth, who was making his debut. There’s a reason Jordo took third in the PIP behind Rory and Tiger. He’s wildly entertaining, if even (and often because he’s playing) from the next fairway over. His brand of golf is awesome for team competitions. As for Tiger, he looks extremely old and rigid. He wasn’t finishing swings. I know he’s hurt, but plantar fasciitis doesn’t go away quickly. Keep your expectations LOW, folks.
Dethier: Sean’s right — it was Spieth. We haven’t seen him in exactly this format and he’s really good at it. Tries just the right amount and doesn’t force it. And this situation makes it VERY easy to force it.
3. With the seventh Match in the books, what type of format/players would you like to see in the next edition of The Match?
Colgan: Considering Match EP Bryan Zuriff told me he’s hoping to alternate between PGA Tour-focused and celebrity-focused iterations of the event, I’m guessing we’ll see some combination of football stars (perhaps TB12 and Justin Herbert?) involved. Personally, I’d tune in for Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, who are self-professed golf hardos.
Hirsh: Two words: Alternate shot. It’s by far the best team format and actually makes team chemistry way more important. I also think keep it to pros. This was by far the most entertaining match and it was the first to have four Tour pros.
Zak: Love that idea, James. I think this is a great format as is. Twelve holes, during primetime hours, with a couple little tricks like the one-club challenge mixed in. We just want to see fun golf. Golf that makes us smile or laugh or shrivel up in fear. We don’t really care if JT and Spieth beat Rory and Tiger. What we need next is a legitimate golf course. Florida clubs like Pelican do not inspire. How about Riviera?
Dethier: I’m trying to think which other courses would be possible to light up at night. Can we get these guys to play 12 holes at Pebble Beach, including a finish down No. 18? I liked the high-wattage jock showdown during the QB edition this summer, and I liked this golf sicko edition, too. It’s key to have fierce competitors and serious golfers, but some actors and entertainers would be a nice next edition, too.
But the dream match is obvious: Michael Jordan hosts a night match at Grove XXIII with Rory McIlroy against Tiger and Charles Barkley. Not sure how strokes would shake out, though…
4. The Sports Business Journal published a survey focused on the biggest sports business story of 2022, and leading the way, with 27% of the vote, was LIV Golf. Yet when respondents were asked whether they’d watched a LIV event in the past year, only 18% said yes. Do you consider this good news, or bad news, for LIV Golf?
Colgan: One out of five sports fans saying they’ve tuned into LIV Golf is good news, but I’d be more curious to know what percentage of that group plans to tune back in 2023.
Hirsh: I feel like 18 percent is a lower number than expected, especially because LIV Golf was without a doubt the biggest sports business story of the year. I would have expected more to tune in the first year simply because of the novelty. This doesn’t bode well for LIV’s 2023 numbers.
Zak: I think James is spot-on. We’ve seen the show now. Do we turn back up for it a second time? It’s obviously good news that LIV is on everyone’s radar, but the XFL has been on our radar multiple times before. What have you done for me lately?
Dethier: The story is still the disruption rather than the product. In other words, it’s still a story because of its effect on the PGA Tour. That will have to shift for LIV to be successful.
5. Speaking of LIV, the New York Times sifted through hundreds of pages of confidential documents that shed light on the early days of LIV Golf and its quest to build a sturdy and profitable league. What was the most revealing nugget you found?
Colgan: The headline of the story was the importance the documents placed on enlisting Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy for LIV’s long-term legitimacy. Those guys seem — how do I put this lightly? — erhm, out on the idea, for the time being. If LIV’s consultant pals at McKinsey were right in their assessment, it’d seem the league is headed down a concerning path.
Hirsh: LIV really thought Micheal Jordan and Augusta National members would want to align themselves against the PGA Tour? Really??
Zak: LIV got four of McKinsey’s top 12 targets, which is actually a pretty great number. But who would the 12 targets have been in 2022? Those guys are almost entirely on the PGA Tour and ignoring LIV. I found it interesting that Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson were considered top 12 targets by McKinsey. Clearly, they were interested in the old guard, too. But perhaps that rostering move that has now long been mocked really wasn’t a great decision.
Dethier: My biggest takeaway? Consulting is a lucrative gig. It might not work at all. It might partly work. It might be a home run! Where do I cash in? In all seriousness, it was interesting to see LIV evaluate what it needed to be successful. Behind all the bluster is a leadership group that has been told what’s necessary to succeed as a legitimate money-making business.
6. Tiger and Charlie will team up in the PNC Championship this week, and while we know most viewers will be interested in that famous duo, name one other team you have interest in watching next weekend in Florida?
Colgan: The Spieth family is competing in the event for the first time, which will at the very least make for compelling preshot audio.
Hirsh: I hope we get an explanation from Brady Duval on his comment after winning an AJGA event (the pinnacle of junior golf events) when he said, “I look forward to maybe playing in another one again.” I’m also looking forward to who will be this year’s Karl Stenson. The 11-year-old was the heartthrob of last year’s tournament and perhaps the biggest repercussion of dad Henrik going to LIV is that we won’t get to see Karl this year.
Zak: The defending champs, duh! The Daly family is even more interesting than they used to be, what with Jonah Hill rumored to be playing Big John in an upcoming biopic. My question is who is playing Little John?
Dethier: Based on Petr Korda’s flashes of competitiveness last year I’m guessing he’s been grinding on his game ever since. I’m excited to see Team Korda back in action — and to see what tees Charlie Woods has to play from this year, of course.
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