The Match, Part 2 turns out to be a glorious trainwreck

Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for The Match)
Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for The Match) /

The Match 2 was a thrilling afternoon of golf between legends.

What do you get when the two most iconic golfers of this generation, months removed from competition, team up with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks on a rainy day at an exclusive golf club, all of it for charity? Nothing less than a glorious trainwreck.

The golf was sloppy, the course conditions at Medalist soggy as a storm swept through South Florida, but The Match: Champions for Charity on Sunday still turned out to be everything you could ask for in a golf competition: exciting, enjoyable, and memorable.

Tom Brady spent most of the front-nine getting roasted on social media for his wayward shots. Charles Barkley, from the safety of the enclosed commentator’s tent, offered $50,000 for charity if Brady hit the green on the par-3 fourth; Brady didn’t even come close. But he ended up hitting the two most unforgettable shots of the round.

On the par-5 seventh hole, with Barkley again cheerfully taunting him in his ear, Brady spun his fourth shot from the fairway back into the hole for an unlikely birdie. “Shut your mouth, Chuck” was his response. He cost Brooks Koepka money after the third-ranked player in the world pledged $100,000 if Brady made even a par on the front. Then, on the 11th, after Phil Mickelson drove the green on the par-four with one of his ‘hellacious seeds,” Brady rolled in the eagle putt to bring the team within two of Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning.

Like the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback he is, Brady’s play picked up when it mattered most, on the back-nine. So did the tension. Mickelson offered all the advice he could to his partner as they erased a three-hole deficit and got within one with four holes to play. They got no further, though, and Woods and Manning won 1-up, Tiger avenging his loss to Phil in the inaugural match 18 months ago.

The Match was a glorious trainwreck of an afternoon

That match was all about bragging rights between the two rivals and who would win $9 million; Sunday’s round had nothing like that at stake. What it did do, however, is raise $20 million for COVID-19 relief and provide a bit of comic relief to the public during a time when they need it most.

Barkley and Justin Thomas, serving as a course reporter, used their Auburn-Alabama rivalry to act as foils for each other. Tiger had some quips to Phil about not winning the U.S. Open; Brady took Manning’s University of Tennessee headcover and pretended to stomp on it. The Match was a competition, but it was also fun, four men stepping up for a good cause.

For Brady and Manning, it was an experience unlike any other they’ve been through. They’re used to cheering fans and 300-pound linemen chasing after them. Golf is just a hobby for them. But to get a chance to play in an arena such as this, with no one around but millions watching at home, in a sport that’s not their specialty, turned out to be a special moment.

“To get behind the ropes in these guys’ world and to be in the arena with them, it was really a special experience,” Manning told TNT’s Amanda Balionis after the round, a big check in his hands. “I was not comfortable the entire time, from the first tee all the way down here. But knowing that $20 million was raised, helping people that are really going through tough times, it was an honor for Tom and I both to be invited by Phil and Tiger to play in this match and something I’ll always remember and cherish.”

Manning, a six handicap, and Brady, who’s reported eight handicap attracted some ridicule after his unceremonious start to the round, allowed viewers to see themselves out on the course, playing against the world’s best. They both lost balls in the palmetto bushes that surround Medalist and hit into water hazards, but they also had their moments. It was Manning’s long birdie putt on the fourth hole that put his team 2-up in the match. At the 16th, with $25 million on the line for a hole-in-one, both Manning and Brady put their approach shots inside Tiger’s and set up birdies for their team.

Even the pros understood the magnitude of the moment. Mickelson admitted he was nervous on the front-nine and had to be bailed out by Brady’s birdie hole-out. Woods seemed to benefit from the extra rest after not playing for 98 days. He didn’t miss a fairway all round and skillfully navigated his way through every inch of Medalist, his home course for the past decade. His lag putt on the 18th sealed the victory despite he and Manning not winning a hole after the sixth.

It was wild, it was wacky, and, most importantly, it was sheer fun. The PGA Tour is planning a return on June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The final round of that tournament was supposed to be on Sunday. It would’ve had to be a thrilling tournament to surpass what actually happened, when four legends in their own right gave golf fans a reprieve from a two-month COVID-19 hiatus. It wasn’t always pretty, but that’s what was so enjoyable about it.

Next. The Match 2: 5 best moments as Tiger, Peyton win. dark