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BlogThe Match Preview and Picks

Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity

May 24, 2020

TPC Louisiana

Avondale, LA

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,515 for Tiger and Phil, around 7,000 for Peyton and Tom

Purse: $10 million going to charity

Defending Champion:
Phil Mickelson

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

So what is this week about?

So 66 days after the last golf shot was struck at the Players Championship, golf returned on Sunday at the TaylorMade Driving Relief. I have to say it turned into quite a match. At the start of the match Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson were strong favorites at -195 over Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at +145 and despite being the underdogs, Fowler and Wolff carried the match into overtime before a TV rigged single shot elimination saw McIlroy and Johnson win when Rory hit a wedge to 18 feet from the pin to beat out Wolff who hit his wedge first to 18 feet from the hole.

So history will write that despite going into the overtime shot $400,000 down, Rory delivered the crucial shot that gave him and Dustin the title with the final six skins worth $1.1 million to win a total of 11 skins and $1.85 million. The competition was galvanizing and showed how exciting Skins game can be. All 18 holes were thrilling and unfortunately because the show running over it’s 6 pm time zone had to revert to a one-shot closest to the pin to settle things. Still, it was a welcome relief from the last nine and a half weeks of no live golf.

The ratings were ok, 2.35 million watched the match across many channels and devices so it averaged about the same as a regular PGA Tour event in May.  In a way, many folks that make the decision to run things kinds of things are probably disappointed because over on Fox the Darlington NASCAR race averaged 6.32 million.  Would have thought that golf could have been better, but the race was on later when more viewers are available.

On Sunday we get the second in a series of two preliminary competitions before the PGA Tour resumes golf in Ft. Worth, Texas with the Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity. A carry-over from a match 18 months ago in Las Vegas with Phil Mickelson beating Tiger Woods, this one has a twist as football stars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will be part of the fun in a team competition in which Mickelson is paired with Brady and Woods will have Manning as their partner. The foursome will play one of the toughest courses in the world, the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida.

This match will be totally different from the TaylorMade Driving Relief as it will be a match-play competition with two formats that the sponsors hope will provide an entertaining mix of strategy, team collaboration, and consequence on every hole. The front nine will be a best-ball format, in which every player will hit a shot and the low score of the players determine the score for the team. On the back nine, they will play a modified alternate shot format in which every player hits a shot off the tee, one-shot is picked and then the players will alternate shots of the drive that they pick. The difference from the Skins Game is that the element of non-professional golfers is entered into the mix making it even harder especially with them playing one of the toughest courses in the world. According to Golf Digest, Manning plays off a 3.5 handicap, while Brady has a handicap of 8. So right off the bat, the team of Woods and Manning have the advantage. Making it psychologically better will be the fact that Mickelson won the first time he played Tiger in Las Vegas 18 months ago in another overtime shootout.

Look at how Tiger and Phil have played of late:

Player Arnold Palmer Invitational Genesis Open AT&T Pebble Beach Farmers Insurance Open The American Express WGC-HSBC Champions The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Zozo Championship
Tiger Woods
(59 pts)
DNP 68
(0)
DNP T9
(15)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
Phil Mickelson
(30.33 pts)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
3
(30)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T28
(7.33)
T31
(6.33)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

 

So what is the difference between this match and the Skins Game?

There is a drastic difference in the Capital One’s The Match. The Skins Game had four top-ranked players who have won on the PGA Tour, but in this match, you will have four highly skilled athletes, but two of them will be from a different sport. They will go under the scrutiny of having to perform in a sport they aren’t experts in, so there will be more strategy and pressure put on both Mickelson and Woods.

About The Medalist Golf Club

The Medalist Golf Club is in Hobe Sound, Florida. It opened in 1995 and the course is the home to many PGA Tour players including Tiger Woods. So off the bat, Tiger has the home-field advantage. The course was the brainchild of Greg Norman, who co-designed the course with Pete Dye. The land was similar to the property that TPC Sawgrass is on, dry swampland with a lot of native brush and scrub. So just like Dye did at TPC Sawgrass 15 years before, he and Norman came up with a design and tunneled 18 holes through the preserve and swampland. When the course opened, it was considered one of the hardest courses in the world. Off the tee, it was very narrow if you missed the fairway you had to contend with sand, water, brush, and scrub brush or the ball was just lost. If you got the ball on the fairway, the shot to the greens was just as hard. Traps surround the greens from all angles with built-up ledges and slopes and despite the course being flat, it carried a slope of 155 and in the beginning had a 75.0 stroke average.

Right off the bat, it got a lot of publicity when it was included in the revamped television show Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. In a match that included the number 1 and 2 players in the world, course architect Norman played against Nick Price. In that match, Price made six birdies in shooting an even-par 72 to beat Norman who shot 76. Norman had a one-shot lead on the 16th tee but finished triple-bogey, bogey, par compared to Price’s par, birdie, par finish. Showing how hard the course was back then, Norman played four holes over par, while Price was over par on five holes. In talking about the course after the match, ABC’s Jack Whitaker said the course was environmentally correct and strategically testing. He added that Dye and Norman designed a golf course that brought back some factious of the game that had been in disuse on a lot of American golf courses over the decades, the bump and run shot, firm fairways and firm greens. The fact of where it was in Hobe Sound, Florida with the winds off the Atlantic Ocean buffeting it daily changed the course and the problems that golfers had to play it.

Despite its instant fame as being a hard test, that reputation hurt them on getting members and selling homes. So in 2014, they hired Bobby Weed Golf Design to soften up the course. This didn’t go over very well with both Norman and Dye, Greg left the club and took with him all the memorabilia that was in the clubhouse. Weed came in and made the fairways more open and took out the severity of the greens, plus he got rid of a lot of pot bunkers that didn’t make players happy. Today the course is more mature and the club has more members and with some new tees the course stretches out to 7,571 with a course rating of 77.9.

So the big question in this match will be how tough the course is for Manning and Brady. Both are accomplished players but on courses that are more open and easier. In a way, it was unfortunate that this match wasn’t played at Seminole and the Skins game played at Medalist. That would have made more sense, but the folks who ran the Skins Game made that deal first with Seminole.

So who is going to win?

Right now Woods and Manning are the favorites at -225 to Mickelson and Brady’s +180. In looking at the games of the quarterbacks, Brady lamented his golf game is currently somewhere between ‘piss-poor’ and ‘pitiful’ after focusing most of his efforts this offseason on football and learning a new playbook with Tampa Bay. Mickelson suspects Brady is just being modest, and the lack of expectations could turn out to be a good thing. Brady plays to an 8 handicap and just joined Seminole. He says that his game can get streaky and he played Medalist once last year with Justin Thomas and shot 106. So he knows how hard it is.

Both have played together a lot and been partners many times and don’t have a very good record as partners. “The last time we played, we got beat by an 84-year-old and a 77-year old,” Manning admitted. “Like closed out on 15.”

“I’ll be honest, I’ve never played Tom very well on his home turf, so maybe this is considered a neutral site,” Manning said.  Still, Manning is the better player of the two and despite not playing much in his home in Denver due to snow, he has the better game and doesn’t have the same pressures on him that Brady has changing to a new team for the upcoming NFL season.

The one thing that will help the quarterbacks, they won’t be playing the same tees as Tiger and Phil which plays around 7,515. Their tees will be between 7,000 to 7,177. The par for the course is 72. As for how Tiger and Phil are playing right now, that is hard to find as both have been quiet on this, and very little has been said or written on how both are getting ready for the match.  One thing Tiger has the advantage as he plays all his home golf at Medalist and knows every inch of the course.  For Michelson, who still lives outside of San Diego, he and his wife just bought some land in the Jupiter area and are planning on moving full time to Florida once the kids finish High School next year.  Mickelson did join Michael Jordan’s exclusive Grove course, which is about five minutes from Medalist and will be playing there to get ready for the match.

One thing that we do know, the strategy is going to be very important in this match. Both Manning and Brady can hit it long but aren’t straight so they may be in their pockets a lot since Medalist is so tight. If this was Seminole you could be off the fairway and still be in play, that won’t be the case at Medalist. As for Tiger and Phil, Tiger has a big advantage since he is straighter and will keep it in the fairway more, plus with the course being his home course he knows Medalist well and how to play it.

Since the front nine is best-ball, it’s safe to say the front nine will be a battle between Tiger and Phil. If one of the quarterbacks can get it on the fairway and onto the green and make a birdie, that will be a big bonus, but don’t expect that to happen. The back nine will be a totally different story. Have to think that if the quarterbacks do hit the fairway, the best strategy will be for Tiger and Phil to hit their shots into the green. They will have a much better chance of getting on the green for a sure par and possibly give their partner a possible birdie putt. Since Tiger and Phil will be hitting first if one doesn’t hit the fairway, it will put a lot of strain on their partner to hit the fairway.

So Tiger has a big advantage and frankly, I can’t see Woods and Manning not winning.

The one thing about this match, it’s built more for entertainment than golf. From the announcing team of Brian Anderson and Charles Barkley, the basketball analysis with the strange swing will be funny. On the fairway will be Justin Thomas who will serve as an on-course reporter. So between Thomas and the four players and Barkley, expect a lot of trash-talking, something that we heard very little from in the Skins Game. Still despite the trash-talking and we know how good Phil Mickelson is at this, I still don’t see any way that Tiger and Payton not win.

Right now the show is supposed to go to 8 pm, so because of that it will get better ratings.  On top of that more folks will want to watch a golf show with Tiger and Phil, plus both Manning and Brady will be big draws so with no real competition we will see much better ratings for this event.

The telecast of the Skins Game had a lot of production mistakes but the biggest was too many announcers that cluttered up the airwaves.  Because of social distancing, you didn’t have as much trash-talking and teammates helping each other, think that should be different.  I expect little chatter from the announcers and more talking from the players, which is what these exhibitions are all about.

One of the big problems could be the course being too hard for the quarterbacks, there may be a lot of searching for balls, other than that this will be probably more entertaining for Golf Fans than last week’s Skins Game.

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