‘The Match’ gave us way more than a Tom Brady roller coasterby Mark Cannizzaro
The golf matched the weather, which was sloppy, and that was just fine because the purpose of the “The Match: Champions for Charity’’ Sunday was met based on the $20 million raised for COVID-19 relief and the entertainment it delivered to a TV audience starved for live sports.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning dished more humor and self-deprecation than they produced birdies and eagles through torrential rain storms at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.
Woods, who is a member at Medalist, and Manning won the match 1-up. But, as was the case last Sunday at Seminole — where Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff raised more than $5 million in their skins game for COVID-19 relief — the result mattered little.
This event raised more money than last week’s and treated the viewers with more entertainment with four players mic’d up and providing great color. Former NBA star Charles Barkley, one of the color commentators on site, was the fifth star in this event with his tweaks and jabs.
For a while, it looked as if Brady, a perennial winner with six Super Bowl titles, was going to be the biggest loser.
If Brady were still quarterbacking the Patriots, Bill Belichick would have replaced him with Jarrett Stidham by halftime.
Brady was one of the stars of this show for all the wrong reasons. Arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, he was taking the kind of pummeling on social media usually reserved for Mark Sanchez and the “buttfumble.’’
There are some places where six Super Bowl rings can buy you nothing, and Medalist was one of those places.
In fairness to Brady, who signed with the Buccaneers in the offseason, he’s been spending most of his time working out with his new receivers.
Perhaps a harbinger of how Brady would struggle was the fact he played 18 holes in the morning Sunday in a desperate 11th-hour attempt to find his game for the big match.
The best — and most fitting — exchange of the day came as the players got to the fourth tee for the first par-3 of the round and Barkley, on air, offered $50,000 to donate out of his pocket to the charity if Brady could merely hit the green with his tee shot.
“Chuck, you got any swing tips for me, because I’m struggling?’’ Brady said.
“I’m not the guy you want to be taking swing tips from,’’ responded Barkley, whose awkward swing has been universally panned.
Brady then sprayed his tee shot some 30 yards to the right of the green, prompting Barkley to quip: “I should have said, ‘If you just keep it on the planet … ’ ’’
It got no better for Brady on the next hole when Brooks Koepka tweeted that he would donate $100,000 to the charity if Brady would merely par one of the final four holes on the front nine.
“I can do that,’’ Brady responded. “Tell Brooks I said, ‘Thank you.’ It’s coming. I’m saving it up.’’
So he was.
The unquestioned highlight of the match came on the par-5 seventh hole, when Barkley poked at Brady, saying, “Hey Tom how many shots you want? I want some of you.’’
“Chuck, I’ve been focusing on football, bro,’’ Brady said “I’m trying to win a Super Bowl, man.’’
Brady then proceeded to hole out his fourth shot from more than 100 yards out with a wedge for birdie. Moral to the story: Never count out the GOAT (See: Super Bowl LI, Atlanta Falcons and 28-3).
“Take a suck of that, Chuck,’’ Brady chirped.
Then: “Brooks owes me a little money.’’
Accentuating color to his hole-out, Brady split his slacks during the shot, joking that it happened because “there was so much torque in that swing,’’ forcing him to put rain pants on for the rest of the match.
The most memorable exchange between Mickelson and Woods came on the fifth hole when Mickelson, with a muddy lie about 50 yards from the hole, asked Woods to mark his ball on the green.
“Want me to use one of my U.S. Open medals?’’ Woods asked.
“I’ve got some silver ones; do you have any of the gold ones?’’ Mickelson responded, making fun of his record six U.S. Open runner-up finishes.
“Actually, I’ve got three of them,’’ Woods said.
In the lead-up to the event, Mickelson was the leader in the clubhouse with the smack talk, publicly chiding Woods for his supposed “insistence’’ on playing at Medalist and predicting that him and Brady were poised to leave him with a “bad memory’’ at his home course.
By day’s end, though, the four players and the entire production left everyone who watched with a good Memorial Day weekend sports memory and 20 million more reasons to be happy.