The match telecast with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady could change golf for all of us.
Wasn’t it entertaining watching four sports legends duke it out on Sunday in a meaningless golf match made for television and charity? Golf fans’ enthusiastic viewership and feedback to The Match: Champions for Charity sent a message to TV and golf leaders that may forever change television golf. In essence: Lighten up, ye skilled ones, and have fun with what is, yes, really, just a game!
But why should it change only television golf? There are lessons here for us recreational players from Woods, Mickelson, Manning and, yes, maybe even from Brady that could make us better people and better company on the golf course — maybe even (OK, forget about Brady) better golfers.
WHAT THE REST OF US COULD LEARN FROM THE MATCH
The weather doesn’t have to be perfect for golf to be fun! I so admired this foursome for grinning and bearing the rain, even though they got a good soaking without caddies standing by to hold their umbrellas. Stock your own golf bag with a light, hooded rain jacket, rain gloves, and rain pants or skirt, and you’ll not only withstand an occasional shower, you might even find you enjoy the serenity of the course as it empties of all but the hardy.
It’s possible to swing a golf club with nonstop jabbering in your ears. Yes, ladies! These guys wore earpieces and could hear all of the barbs from Charles Barkley and Justin Thomas, in addition to all the usual swing thoughts rattling around in their heads. They never held up a hand to say, “Quiet, please.” They just stepped up to hit. Next time out, ask your foursome to talk whenever you’re over the ball: Pretty soon, you, too, will be so distraction-proof that it won’t bother you when you have to play a match against your club’s Talking Tina.
Trash talk is fun, not rude! On the golf course, good-natured teasing beats silence and nickel wagers beat, “Oh, I don’t really care how I play,” every time.
Don’t take the rules so seriously. In a friendly match, don’t worry about marking your ball or asking your opponent to mark hers when you’re 50 yards short of the green. If she asks you to mark when she’s 50 yards out, just be like Tiger and say, “If you hit that, Phil, you win the hole.” (And, did you notice, Phil almost hit that!)
AND ESPECIALLY THIS
Finally, there is so much more to the golf we see on television every weekend than we can ever imagine. Why does any one of us who works for a living, doesn’t practice and plays golf only on weekends beat herself up over a shank when so much goes into every shot by a pro? The mind-blowing segment of the telecast for all of us who play the game was Mickelson’s tutorial on a chip shot over Medalist’s wet turf:
“So, what I’m looking at is, I’ve got a bit of a tight lie because the grain’s in, which means I don’t want to go high, it’s hard to slide the club under. So I want to go low, but the greens have been taking off. They’re swift and because of water the ball’s skidding instead of stopping. So what I’m going to do is, because I want to go low, I’m going to land it short of the green. You can see the color is dark. What I’m looking at here, the color is light, but here, the color is dark. That means the grain’s in. Now normally I would not want to land it into the grain because that would kill it. But with the water, it’s skidding. So it will take some of the heat off it. I’m going to take a 60-degree wedge, play it back just a little bit, and hit it into that grain and let the water kind of skid and it will take some of the heat off it, and it should just run out by the hole.”
Discourse finally over, Phil’s execution put the ball right next to the hole. “I find that very attractive right there,” he said. “That kind of does it for me.”
Give me a lesson like that one every week, plus laughs like the ones delivered by Peyton, Charles Barkley and Justin Thomas, and throw in a player as good-looking as (even Patriots-haters must admit) Tom Brady, and I’m setting my DVR without fail. Mix in a few gutsy LPGA legends and — from the forward tees please — female celebrities, and this format is ready for prime time.
ONE MORE THING
Keep in mind, those four guys on Sunday competed not for glory or paychecks but for the greater good. Maybe that purpose ultimately freed them from worries about swings and shots and allowed them to have fun together. Maybe the rest of us should try that.