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National view

‘Match’ right mix, right time

By Doug Ferguson

The Associated Press

Now we know what Phil Mickelson is thinking over the most difficult of pitch shots.

Mickelson showed nearly six million viewers who made last Sunday’s exhibition in the rain the most-watched golf telecast in cable television history.

Next up: Real golf, from Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, where the PGA Tour is set to resume.

It won’t be nearly as much fun.

For starters, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady won’t be playing.

There won’t be any cart cameras, because there won’t be any carts. Mickelson, who is in the field at Colonial, won’t be wearing a microphone. Tiger Woods hasn’t said if he’ll be at the Charles Schwab Challenge, but recent history suggests he won’t be playing very much when the tour returns.

Last Sunday was a hit-and-giggle event that raised some serious money for COVID-19 relief funds. It was more about entertainment than competition, and everything about it worked.

The Colonial and the tournaments that follow — three of them majors — entertain through competition.

The PGA Tour would be wise to take notice because an event like last Sunday’s “Match” can only broaden the appeal. The mistake would be too many of these exhibitions. If you find honey, eat just enough, as the proverb says. Too much of it and you’ll vomit.

Golf used to have a “silly season” with the Skins Game as the centerpiece and even the PGA Grand Slam of Golf for the major champions providing early week entertainment on cable TV. They got tired and couldn’t keep pace with soaring prize money on the PGA Tour.

It’s no longer about money.

Mickelson beat Woods for $9 million in a winner-take-all match over Thanksgiving weekend in 2018 and it was a dud. The final charity tally Sunday was $20 million, and while that’s worth touting, it’s not what raised the bar.

Mickelson is appealing because he’s a natural talker and shot-maker. Woods is appealing because he’s Woods. But they needed help, and they got just that from Manning and Brady. And it helped that Brady holed out from 100 yards for birdie, a shot that saved the match (otherwise, Woods-Manning are 4 up through seven).

Would this have been as successful in the middle of a normal PGA Tour season? It was the right event at the right time with the right mix.

There is room for more of these exhibitions to reach a wider audience.

Just not too much of it.

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