Baseball icon Hank Aaron once said, "It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course." Though not a baseball player, Charles Barkley can probably relate. A fellow Hall of Famer in his respective sport, few people have had their golf swings analyzed, critiqued and mocked more frequently in recent memory than Barkley, whose infamous hitch is emulated by weekend golfers everywhere.
Playing alongside Phil Mickelson in The Match III on Friday, Barkley leaned on his new-and-improved swing and coaching from Mickelson to cruise to a lopsided victory over Steph Curry and Peyton Manning.
After Curry and Manning won the first hole with a par, Barkley and Mickelson took the next four holes and never looked back, clinching the victory with a birdie on No. 15.
Barkley set the tone early, hitting the fairway on each of his first two drives. Most notably, the hitch that drew the ire of amateur golfers everywhere was nowhere to be seen.
Barkley and Mickelson, a five-time major winner, were up four holes through seven, creating an insurmountable lead for Curry and Manning. With the outcome virtually in hand, the duo kept viewers entertained with a healthy dose of trash talk, with Mickelson conceding a lengthy putt to Curry to keep things interesting.
Up three holes at the turn, Barkley suggested alternative programming for TNT to air in lieu of showing the rest of the Match.
Play from both sides faltered on the back nine, as Curry and Manning were unable to take advantage of Barkley and Mickelson's miscues. Barkley's game was certainly improved, but he's not quite ready to compete on the senior tour just yet.
In the end, Barkley and Mickelson—who were +140 underdogs coming into the matchup—were deserving champions. Though the drama wasn't quite there, the Match succeeded in raising money for historically black colleges and universities, providing ample entertainment and, perhaps most importantly, giving Barkley a platform to showcase all the strides his game has taken in recent years. Here's hoping he'll make another appearance in the Match IV.