Sunday’s The Match: Champions for Charity was an unequivocal success that is both sustainable and replicable long into the future. Sure, it helped to have four of the most famous athletes in the history of the world raising $20 million in the middle of a pandemic, but you don’t need the kind of ratings Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady got to make this a viable franchise for years to come.
All you need is a format that works for television — and enough charisma from your participants — to lure in a golf-obsessed audience (like myself!). Because the code for the production portion of this was seemingly cracked over the weekend with earpieces, limited announcing chatter, an elite on-course reporter in Justin Thomas and cameras anywhere and everywhere on the course, all you need is to add a variety of golfers and other athletes to that potion.
Here are five combinations of professional golfers and professional non-golfers I’d like to see in the future.
1. Tiger Woods & Michael Jordan vs. Rory McIlroy & Stephen Curry: McIlroy and Curry work well together as a team each being young stars of a new generation that are trying to fight against the ceiling that is the greatest to ever do it in their respective sports. (And look, LeBron James doesn’t play golf — especially not up to MJ’s level.) We all know Jordan’s penchant for golf, and he’s played together with Tiger a number of times. Curry has actually played a couple of PGA Tour events as an low round of 71. This would be an absolute show! It might honestly get too competitive to the point that we’d have to remind everyone to talk for the final nine holes. We might need Mickelson and Thomas on the mics.
2. Tiger Woods & Nick Saban vs. Phil Mickelson & Steve Spurrier: Let’s get down to business here. Mickelson and Spurrier would have an absolute field day on Woods and Saban (who would kick their asses). I would watch a multi-part SEC coaches-only version of the match from now until I don’t cover golf anymore. Heck, I’d watch Spurrier eat lunch as long as there were other humans around and he was mic’d up.
3. Rory McIlroy & Stephen Curry vs. Justin Thomas & Andre Iguodala: One of the reasons the match at Medalist over the weekend worked is because Brady and Manning were somewhat equivalent as golfers. That’s one reason this one might not work (Curry is a lot better than Iguodala), although you could work that out by giving Iguodala more strokes than you give Curry. J.T. and Iggy already have a nice rapport, and McIlroy and Curry are two of the most enthralling pros in any sport in any era. If you dropped them into this format, I would legit pay money to watch it.
4. Phil Mickelson & Drew Brees vs. Rickie Fowler & Ben Roethlisberger: Two more quarterbacks who can play a little bit, and Fowler and Mickelson would go well together. I don’t know whether Roethlisberger has the personality to carry something like this, but I didn’t think Brady did either. And Sunday’s round got an average of 5.8 million viewers throughout.
5. Brooks Koepka & Matt Ryan vs. Jon Rahm & Aaron Rodgers: If you want to keep the quarterback theme going (and not bring Tony Romo in), this would be a good way to do it. Rodgers is good (better than Brady), and Ryan is even better than that. Plus, we’d get to see how Koepka’s supposed linebacker frame looks next to an actual NFL player!
Obviously, Woods and Mickelson are the biggest part of this show, and any future version would almost certainly include them. But I think you could get away with doing variations without them as long as the biggest personalities in golf (and football or hoops or baseball) were involved with the production quality we saw on Sunday.