Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady will face off against Aaron Rodgers and Bryson DeChambeau.
Here it is late June and already we’re through three of golf’s most prestigious events — the Masters Tournament, PGA Championship and U.S. Open. Hard to believe as July approaches, all that’s left is the big one.
You know, the one circled on the calendar in bold marker — Capital One’s “The Match” on Tuesday evening, July 6 at The Reserve at Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Mont.
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Sure, the British Open at Royal St. George’s Golf Club takes place nine days later. Decent little spot — the coastline of Kent, England. Interesting little competition — if you’re into 161-year old golf tournaments, that is.
But Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers won’t be teeing it up there, so seriously, how legit could it be?
Joking aside, “The Match”?deserves some respect. After all, the 2020 edition, with Mickelson and Brady playing Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning, raised some $20 million for COVID-19 relief. That’s nothing to sneeze at, with or without a mask.
And frankly, this edition promises to fill our smart TVs with stunning and dramatic scenes, artistry rarely seen on a golf course. No really, the Jack Nicklaus-designed grounds in Montana will be that breathtaking.
The golf? Well … did we mention the fundraising?
The quality of the competition, the heat of the battle, the lack of either, doesn’t seem to matter in the made-for-TV world. Names get dropped, riches get made and an audience’s insatiable thirst for celebrity gazing gets satisfied.
The formula is proven. For instance, even though Floyd Mayweather’s fights were boring when he was in his prime, pay-per-view patrons ponied up $50 each to watch a 44-year-old Mayweather(ed) fight Logan Paul, whose claim to fame is fame, who metaphorically speaking is Paris Hilton in boxing trunks.
Silly or not, there is programming gold in them thar hills, especially for a medium that banks on “One Day At A Time” reboots and “Ellen’s Game of Games,”?featuring Cruella de Vil, aka Ellen DeGeneres. In that context, a game show matching iconic golfers with iconic athletes from other walks is a prime-time layup.
This version will have “Entertainment Tonight” host Kevin Frazier doing pre-game, appropriately enough. Sir Silliness himself, Charles Barkley, will team with Larry Fitzgerald and Cheyenne Woods on the TNT broadcast.
All that’s missing is Mr. Roarke and Tattoo as starters … “Da carts! Da carts!” … and Richard Dawson as an on-course reporter … “Show me birdie!!!”
At the same time, if you’re a TV exec or a programmer, and you want to make some serious jack, only one golf-related “Match” is genuinely worth making right now — Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau.
Back in 2008, Playboy reportedly offered Jennifer Aniston $4 million to pose for its magazine (she declined). Imagine the offers Koepka and DeChambeau might command. A promotion budget wouldn’t even be necessary. Between the fractured faces, rolling eyes and interview jabs, the rivalry promotes itself. An old ploy in sports broadcasting is to suggest the opponents “don’t like each other.”
For this match, it goes without saying. Instead, the competitors say it for you. Koepka weighed in again during a pre-tournament presser at the Travelers Championship last week. Responding to questions, he made it clear he has no desire to bury the hatchet and explained where things went off the rails with his PGA Tour adversary.
“I thought it was just interesting when he walked up to my caddie and told Ricky (Elliott) that if I had something to say, to say it to his face,” Koepka recalled. “I thought that was kind of odd. Don't walk up to my face, say it to my caddie.”
You can’t buy that kind of hostility. At this point, the only thing that could top the buzz being generated by the beefy Koepka and the brawny DeChambeau would be a Friday Night Smackdown between Britney and Jamie Spears.
Golf might not even be the best format. A pay-per-view boxing match would make it rain. Of course, you would need Michael Buffer to start that one … “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!” An iron-pumping lift off could be huge, with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon recreating their “Hans and Franz” characters to call the action.
Home Run Derby seems intriguing. DeChambeau reportedly was a good baseball player in his youth. Likewise Koepka, whose dad was a pitcher at West Virginia Wesleyan and whose great uncle, Dick Groat, was the 1960 National League MVP with the Pirates. To ensure a compelling show, Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks would do the pitching. Everyone homers off of him.
Truth is, fans would tune in to see these guys compete against each other in just about anything, sports-related or otherwise. Think hot-dog eating contest, the smart money would be on DeChambeau. Or what about “Jeopardy”?
The show has been rotating guest hosts all summer. Why not have Jim Nantz take a spin reading the clues, with Koepka and DeChambeau going head to head in “America’s favorite quiz show.”
Nantz: Welcome aboard and good luck to both of you. Here’s our categories:
“Say It To My Face,” “Eat Your Heart Out – And Anything Else On Your Plate,” “Abs And Ab Nots,” “Photobombs And 4-Letter Words,” “Can You Believe This?” and “Science.”
DeChambeau: I’ll take “Science” for $200, Jim.
Nantz: First discovered by Smithson Tennant and William Hyde Wollaston back in 1803, this element is considered to be perhaps the densest substance on earth and is mainly used in fountain pens.
DeChambeau: What is kikuyu grass?
Koepka: What is a whey protein shake?
Nantz: No, I’m sorry. The answer we were looking for is what is osmium.
OK, chances are it won’t happen. For now, we’ll have to settle for “The Match.”?and that’s not all bad. Mickelson and Brady have some “Starsky and Hutch” chemistry going for them, and the trash talk should be entertaining. Rodgers is used to playing with offensive linemen, so he should feel comfortable alongside DeChambeau. He might even discount double check the scorecard.
Maybe it’s not a “big one;” maybe the 161-year-old championship coming up is more prestigious. But you have to admit, a match between Koepka and DeChambeau would be must-see TV.