What a nice change.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson got together with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for golf Sunday. It was one of the first live sports on TV since the coronavirus shut down the world in mid-March.
And boy, did we need it.
Woods and Manning, who led 3-up after six holes, held on a for a 1-up victory. But the important things were, they raised $20 million for Covid-19 relief. And they took our minds off our troubles for a few hours.
``Maybe the best televised golf exhibition ever,’’ my friend Gary Van Sickle, the longtime Sports Illustrated golf writer, called it at the MorningRead.com. Even better than when Lee Trevino was doing an 18-hole standup at the original Skins Games, Gary said. And I agree.
Sure, they are four of the most accomplished athletes in 21st century sports. But on Sunday afternoon, they were more like four buddies slapping the little white ball around.
And thanks to some engaging technology that included cameras on their individual golf carts and microphones in their golf clothes, viewers could tag along on their banter with each other, an announcing crew that included Charles Barkley and Justin Thomas, plus special drop-in guests like A-Rod and Russell Wilson, who threw in generous donations.
It was a treat to hear Tiger needling Phil about his lack of a U.S. Open win. . . to hear Phil busting Peyton, who hit some really good shots, about being a sandbagger.
And it was entertaining to hear Barkley pile on when Brady got off to a slow start. Sir Charles, who has a golf swing right out of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, started claiming he could beat Brady.
It was also a little awkward—or enjoyable, depending on how you feel about Brady—to watch perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history look like a mere mortal with a golf club in his hand.
First Barkley offered a six-figure contribution if Brady made a front-nine par. Then major champion Brooks Koepka offered another $100,000 if Brady made a front-nine par.
Challenging a proud football superstar to make one par?
Brady responded with the shot of the day, draining an approach from more than 100 yards on the par-5 seventh hole for birdie. ``Suck on that, Chuck’’ Brady told Barkley.
And somewhere in there, Brady split his pants, and was forced to cover up with rain pants from there.
Brady was the only player in the foursome who opted for long pants on a steamy, soggy day in South Florida at the Medalist Club, a 1995 layout co-designed by Pete Dye and Greg Norman.
Everybody, it seemed, wanted a piece of Brady. During the pre-round warmup, Manning told Brady he would have brought Brady’s ex-coach, Bill Belichick, as a caddie if caddies had been allowed.
Like Brady, Mickelson got off to a slow start, but got going well, driving a tee shot over the trees to the back edge of the 330-yard par-4 11th green. Brady then drained a 25-putt for eagle in the team format.
After Mickelson nearly captured the $25 million hole-in-one prize, Manning got even closer, missing only by 17 inches.
Even Mickelson, who clearly was focused on making an ace, was impressed by that prize. Earning $25 million for one golf shot? That would have been long remembered. And Mickelson, a student of history, knew that.
The TV crew and other essential personnel all wore masks. The four star players did not. They also enjoyed the day so much that they struggled at times to avoid fist-bumps and other celebratory contact. But that was understandable.
Afterward, Manning confessed that he was a bundle of nerves during the entire round.
But what fun. Those ride-along cart cams, especially when it was raining hard, made you feel like you were in the cart yourself.
“The fact that we all came together to raise $20 million for those who have been severely affected, the fact Tom and Peyton, hats off to them for coming out here,” Woods said. “This is our arena, this is what we do. We can’t imagine going out on to their field and doing what they do. But it was a great day.”
In other words, a good time was had by all.