The seventh iteration of Capital One’s “The Match” featured Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy teaming up against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth for a 12-hole exhibition under the lights.
Woods made his first competitive appearance since the British Open in July. Just last week, the five-time Masters champion withdrew from the Hero World Challenge with a foot injury. “The Match” provided each player with a cart—equipped with microphones and cameras—making the made-for-TV event feasible for Woods.
McIlroy and Spieth made their debuts in “The Match,” while Thomas returned for the first time as a competitor (he previously participated as a commentator).
Here’s how it played out at Pelican Golf Club:
Hole 10: Spieth Ends It
Spieth drove it in the pine straw, but hit a wildly impressive shot from the tough position to eight feet. Woods put himself 25 feet from the pin, and was disappointed, but then McIlroy stuck a wedge. Thomas went with a sweeping draw spinner, causing his ball to rip to the left once it hit the green. The whole sequence was a shot-shaping clinic.
McIlroy drained his short-range putt so then the stage was wide open for Spieth to clinch the match. He did just that. Thomas and Spieth defeated McIlroy and Woods, 3 and 2.
Overall, “The Match” generated $2,605,000 for Hurricane Ian relief.
Hole 9: A Push and a Dig at Tiger
The 9th hole was the second closest-to-the-pin challenge of the day. The foursome again fell short of the $100,000 bonus donation to Hurricane Ian relief efforts, because all four players did not hit the green. Thomas ended up in the greenside bunker.
After Thomas hit his bunker shot—which came up short—Barkley complimented his calf muscles. Thomas then chimed in, saying, “Tiger, tell us about your calves.”
“I’ve got a great calf,” said Woods. “Singular,” added Immelman.
The hilarious interaction was followed by the group pushing again. Woods and McIlroy will head to the 10th hole 3 down with three to play, meaning they have a chance to tie Thomas and Spieth if they win all of the remaining holes.
Hole 8: Thomas Sinks Another To Go Back to 3 Up
At the second “Hole In One Challenge,” Woods and Thomas stuck their tee shots tight, while Spieth and McIlroy had distance control issues, getting stuck up in the fringe long of the green.
After Spieth’s slightly misjudged tee shot we heard a pressing question from various members of the foursome, “Where is Michael Greller?” Spieth has to be missing the legendary caddie at least a little bit right now.
McIlroy missed, Spieth just left his short, and Woods misread his attempt. Thomas, however, stepped up and drained his birdie.
“You hate to see it!” Spieth exclaimed once again.
Hole 7: An Opening for Woods and McIlroy
McIlroy sprayed another drive, but this time made an excellent tree-weaving escape with a wood. For the first time all day the four-time major champion looked satisfied with a shot.
Then there was some commotion in the fairway: After Woods hit his second shot, he pulled up to Spieth and Thomas. Thomas, fearing a disruption from the 15-time major champion, hijacked Woods’ cart keys. But he didn’t think of everything—Woods was still able to sound the annoyingly loud reverse button to distract his competitor.
When the foursome reached the green it was McIlroy and Thomas’ mid-range birdie putts that were left to decide the hole. A make from McIlroy and a miss from Thomas gave this match some newfound allure.
“An opening,” said Woods walking off the green.
Hole 6: Thomas’s Near Miss Means Another Push
All four players found fairway on the 526-yard par-4, but Pelican Golf Club is a second-shot golf course. Thomas and Spieth continued to put themselves in prime position with their approaches, while Woods and McIlroy lagged behind. Thomas stuck his iron shot to inside 8 feet, while Spieth hit it to 20 feet. McIlroy missed the green, and Woods ended up a yard or so into the fringe.
The comment of the hole came just before Woods made his birdie attempt. TNT broadcaster Brian Anderson said, “Tiger gets a stroke here,” prompting Thomas to quickly chime in “please don’t piss him off, guys.”
Woods ultimately did not convert the long-range putt, but it barely missed—and the GOAT did not look happy about it. McIlroy then stepped up to his 12-foot par putt, only for Thomas and Spieth to say “that’s good” as he was standing over the ball. In a turn of events, Thomas missed his 7-footer for birdie. The pair remain 3 up.
Hole 5: Tiger and Rory Momentarily Stop The Bleeding
The “Hole In One Challenge” unfortunately did not produce any aces, but it did give team Woods/McIlroy a push. Spieth, Thomas, and Woods couldn’t convert their birdie opportunities, leaving the stage open for McIlroy to get one back. The Irishman caught a nasty lip-out to leave his team down 3.
Announcer Charles Barkley summed up this moment in “The Match” perfectly, saying “We better make it to 12 holes because TNT has another 752 commercials to air.”
Hole 4: Thomas Makes Miraculous One-Club Par to Go 3 Up
Woods, McIlroy, Thomas, and Spieth really put the “challenge” into the “One-Club Challenge” on the 455-yard par-4 5th.
On the tee Spieth had honors for choice and took 4-iron, JT took 5-wood, Rory took 3-iron and Tiger wouldn’t immediately say what he had.
Spieth missed the fairway, McIlroy landed in a divot, Thomas ended up on the right side of the fairway, and Tiger hit a sweeping snap hook on command.
From there, chaos ensued. McIlroy chunked his 3-iron, forcing him to then punch out from pine straw after his third shot stopped up against a golf cart. Spieth gave himself opportunity for a 60-yard bump and run to reach the green in three, as did Woods (after two more golf carts were moved out of his line). But Thomas’ hole was perhaps the most entertaining. After launching his approach over the green (again next to a golf cart!), Spieth and on-course commentator Kathryn Tappen helped lift a rope for Thomas to hit underneath. The shot was masterful—Thomas then clinched par by sinking a 6 footer with his wood, helping his team go 3 up.
Hole 3: JT & Jordan Go 2 Up
The third hole par 3 brought the first of several challenges, this one being a closest-to-the-pin competition. Spieth ran away with the win, sticking it to 15 feet and draining the left to right slider.
The highlight of the hole, however, was at its conclusion, when Thomas gave the group some flak for continuously forgetting to grab the pin. We knew there would be some noticeable differences without caddies present, but this issue was unforeseen.
Hole 2: JT Drains Birdie Putt to Go 1 Up
The second hole was not the foursome’s prettiest, with Woods and Thomas expressing frustration with their approach shots.
But a perfectly executed lag putt from Thomas cleaned it up. The two-time PGA Champion gave a shrug as he walked towards the hole, while Spieth exclaimed, “You hate to see it.”
Hole 1: JT, Tiger Tie With Birdies
The first hole of “The Match” did not disappoint, with all four players surrounding the green with bombed drives. On the tee we even got a Trevor Immelman jab from Spieth. “Sorry Trevor,” the three-time major champion said after being announced as having a 5-0 Presidents Cup record (Immelman captained the 2022 President’s Cup International Team).
JT and Tiger both chipped their second shots close, getting up-and-down for birdie.
Spieth/JT Installed as Betting Favorites
The pre-Match odds on DraftKings have Tiger/Rory at +100 (even money) to win and Spieth/Thomas favored to win at -120.
It would seem unusual that the world No. 1 is part of the underdog team, but Tiger’s physical condition factors into the odds as well as the fact that Spieth/Thomas have had plenty of success as a team over the years.
Phil Chimes In
Phil Mickelson may not be involved with “The Match” franchise anymore due to his affiliation with LIV Golf, but he will be watching tonight. The man who had a major hand in the creation of the made-for-TV golf series tweeted his support of the event on Saturday evening.
Source : SI