Six Suggestions for the Next Iteration of The Match: Who Should Join Tiger and Phil?

Six Suggestions for the Next Iteration of The Match: Who Should Join Tiger and Phil? article feature image
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Chris Condon/PGA TOUR. Pictured: Steph Curry

In today’s age of divisiveness, when we debate the most mundane topics and yell at the top of our lungs by pecking a keyboard on social media, maybe we can finally come to a majority agreement on something: Sunday’s edition of the “Champions for Charity” match was an unmitigated success.

It was fun. It was entertaining. It was competitive.

The golf was silly, then serious. The mood was playful, then resolute. It offered a little bit of everything.

Tiger Woods was dialed in. Phil Mickelson was in his element. Peyton Manning nearly made an ace. And Tom Brady needs his own documentary on the day – he holed a shot from the fairway, split his pants, rolled in an eagle putt, lost about three sleeves of balls and won a long-drive competition with a 3-wood.

There was a little something for everyone.

Which means that questions around the next iteration of these matches is less a matter of if, than when.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s also a matter of whom.

As in: Which opponents/partners should join Tiger and Phil for the next edition of this event? Here are a half-dozen ideas moving forward:

Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas

I honestly think the Golfers vs. Golfers idea has already jumped the shark – we’ve quickly learned that this competition needs a little spark that we can’t get from watching PGA Tour events every other Sunday afternoon. Last week’s TaylorMade match (Rory McIlroy/Dustin Johnson vs. Rickie Fowler/Matthew Wolff) proved that this format basically looks like any Tuesday afternoon pre-tournament money game, which is to say it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If they’re intent on staying within the PGA Tour family, though, then Koepka and JT, a couple of guys with plenty of hubris, would bring some true trash-talk to the proceedings – and this might be best offered as the two of them facing Tiger and Phil as partners.

Michael Jordan and Steph Curry

If we’re looking for a logical leap from Manning and Brady, this would make the most sense. It follows the exact same format: A retired star and an active one, both golf fanatics, showing off their stuff for the world. Perhaps this could serve as a grand opening for MJ’s new The Grove XXIII in South Florida, where Mickelson will reportedly become a member when he moves to the Sunshine State. And this might be the one matchup which could feature two players who are bigger drawing cards than the quarterbacks were this weekend.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

One way of expanding this series is to go global. My educated guess is that Manning and Brady were a much bigger deal as part of this in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. I considered Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as global athletes, but for logistics purposes, I’m not sure either one is a golfer. Federer and Nadal at least have some passing interest in the game and recognition around the world, which would help build the brand of this event.

Donald Trump and Barack Obama

Ah, to hell with logistics. Yeah, I know: This is never, ever, ever, ever, ever gonna happen. Like, ever. But that doesn’t mean we can’t want it to happen, right? Hey, they both play golf and they’re both accustomed to life in the spotlight. Perhaps the biggest question here would be: Which golfer would be paired with which president? Although I have a suspicion we probably already know the answer to this.

Justin Timberlake and Niall Horan

I considered a lot of different people from the world of entertainment, but these two struck me as the greatest possibility, because I think they’d both jump at the chance as serious golfers. Timberlake has played in pro-ams at Pebble Beach and the Dunhill Links – he’s as serious about the game as just about any amateur you’ll find. Horan, meanwhile, is the hands-on founder of Modest! Golf Management, which represents a lot of top-flight European talent, from Tyrrell Hatton to Leona Maguire. There aren’t many combinations of celebrities who are as into the game as these two.

Two contest winners

Not long after the first edition of The Match, a year-and-a-half ago, I was speaking with Mickelson about future editions for the series. He mentioned fellow golfers and other athletes, but I told him I wanted to see a pair of Average Joes play against the pros. Let’s say it’s a couple of 14-handicappers. They’d have a chance to get strokes, play against Tiger and Phil and win real money, which would actually mean something to them – all while white-knuckling and knee-knocking so badly on national TV that we’d all be able to sympathize. The two of them scrambling and getting shots against Tiger and Phil playing best-ball. You know you’d be intrigued.

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