Tom Brady delivered the shot of the match that made it easy to forget the rest of his swings. Tiger Woods didn’t miss a fairway and earned a small measure of revenge against Phil Mickelson.
- Golf superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson held a winner-take-all match in 2018 that Mickelson won
- The pair have played a return match, also including NFL stars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, to raise funds for COVID-19 relief
- The PGA Tour will resume after the coronavirus shutdown with a tournament in Texas on June 11
The PGA Tour is set to return in just over two weeks, and it has a tough act to follow.
In the second and final charity match that brought live golf to TV, this exhibition was as entertaining as the real thing.
Woods lagged a long birdie putt close enough that his partner, Peyton Manning, didn’t have to putt.
That secured a one-up victory over Mickelson and Brady in “The Match: Champions for Charity.”
The goal was to raise $US10 million or more for COVID-19 relief funds, and online donations sent money climbing toward about twice that much.
Manning, who played for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, retired in 2016 as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns and yards and is the only five-time winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
Brady, considered by many to be the best NFL player of all time, won six Super Bowls as quarterback with the New England Patriots before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year.
This made-for-TV exhibition would have had worth on pay-per-view, the model Woods and Mickelson used for a $US9 million ($13.8 million) winner-take-all match in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend in 2018 that Mickelson won in a playoff under lights.
This time, with two NFL greats in Brady and Manning, this allowed viewers to ride along for 18 holes at Medalist Golf Club among four of the biggest stars in US sport, while Justin Thomas — the 2017 PGA Championship winner — pitched in as an on-course reporter.
Woods and Manning took the lead on the third hole and never trailed, building a three-up lead in fourballs on the front nine, with Manning making two birdies (one was a net par).
Brady, whose six Super Bowl titles are more than any NFL quarterback in history, took a beating on social media and in the broadcast booth from Charles Barkley, who twice offered $US50,000 ($76,420) of his own money toward charity if Brady just hit the green on a par-three.
He missed so far right it would be comparable to a pass that landed three rows into the stands.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton weighed in on Twitter, noting Brady signing as a free agent with Tampa Bay by saying he liked the “Florida” Brady much better.
Brooks Koepka offered $US100,000 ($152,840) if Brady could just make a par.
One shot shut everyone up.
Never mind that Brady had to take a penalty drop before getting back to the fairway on the par-five seventh.
With his fourth shot, with Barkley needling him relentlessly, Brady’s shot landed beyond the pin and spun back into the cup.
“Shut your mouth, Chuck,” said Brady, whose microphone piece dangled off the back of his pants.
Woods still thought he won the hole with a 25-foot eagle putt that instead spun hard off the back of the lip. All that, and they ended up halving the hole.
Donations for COVID-19 relief funds kept piling up, and the entertainment didn’t stop even as the rain returned.
It caused a 45-minute delay at the start, and as Woods said on the practice range, “I don’t normally play in conditions like this.”
Mickelson brought out his “Tiger Slayer” putter that he used to shoot 64 at Pebble Beach in 2012, the last time they were in the final group on the PGA Tour. Woods shot 75 that day.
It didn’t help Mickelson with a few critical birdie putts to square the match, though he rolled in a 15-foot par putt to stay one down with two to play.
The back nine was modified alternate shot — all players hit tee shots, and it was alternate shot from there.
It was key for the quarterbacks to find the fairway for the pros to hit shots into the green, and Brady came through until the 18th.
Woods was playing for the first time since February 16, when he finished last at Riviera in Los Angeles.
He looked sharp for the most part, with his game and his words. Mickelson on the fifth hole asked Woods to mark his ball from some 80 yards away.
“You want me to mark with a US Open medal,” said Woods, a three-time champion of the only major Mickelson hasn’t won.
“Do you have one? I have some silver ones,” Mickelson said, referring to his record six runner-up finishes.
Mickelson boasted about taking Woods down on his home course at Medalist, and now their TV matches are tied at 1-1, even with each getting a little help.
Mickelson said he was a little nervous on the front nine until he found his groove, driving the green on the par-four 11th with Brady making a 20-footer for eagle that began their rally.
“Phil said he was nervous. I know Tom and I were comparing notes,” Manning said.
“To be behind the ropes in these guys’ worlds, to be in the arena with them, it was really a special experience. I was not comfortable the entire time. Knowing $US20 million was raised and helping people going through tough times, it was an honour to be invited.
“It’s something I’ll always remember.”
The competition comes two-and-a-half weeks before the PGA Tour plans to resume its season on June 11 in Texas.
Woods last competed in February and then withdrew from a number of tournaments with a back injury before the PGA Tour decided to cancel a slew of events because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
He has said he is healthy and will be ready to go when the Tour resumes.
Mickelson finished third in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February and missed the cut in his next two starts.
“We all came together and were able to raise $US20 million for those that have been so severely affected,” Woods said.
“I take my hat off to Tom and Peyton. This is our arena, this is what we do for a living. I couldn’t imagine going on the field and doING what they do.”