The Match is headed house for the vacations, however one founding member will not be there to have fun.
Based on longtime good friend and Match govt producer Bryan Zuriff, Phil Mickelson is not concerned with the made-for-TV occasion.
“I really like Phil and he is been an unbelievable a part of this. However he is aware of, you recognize,” Zuriff informed GOLF. “He went the place he went, and we’re related with the PGA Tour. So I imply, it is a PGA Tour occasion.”
Mickelson, who competed in 4 iterations of The Match, was as soon as the occasion’s heartbeat. He was a pure match for The Match’s wall-to-wall method, and his charisma and free-wheeling nature made him the perfect character for the occasion pushed extra by its star energy than its golf prowess. In The Match’s earliest iterations, Mickelson was important in serving to the occasion seize the game within the goofy, pleasant gentle Zuriff envisioned.
Now, nonetheless, Mickelson is property of LIV Golf, and The Match is in want of a brand new anchor.
“Sadly, he left the Tour, and that is unlucky for doing one thing like this,” Zuriff mentioned.
Whereas The Match is just not owned or operated by the PGA Tour, there have been a couple of elements driving its allegiance to golf’s largest tour. The primary, maybe not surprisingly, is cash. The Match is a industrial boon for Turner Sports activities, which broadcasts the occasion to large audiences for surprisingly low overhead. For Turner, PGA Tour gamers are a simple promote to advertisers, which makes it simpler for the community to generate a revenue on the printed.
“I have a look at The Match as saying ‘we’re doing an occasion in someday that prices a lot lower than what LIV’s spending in a yr, and extra folks watch us than watch them,” Zuriff mentioned. “I believe we’re fairly sensible in our marketing strategy.”
Turner Sports activities’ latest acquisition by Warner Bros. Discovery additionally performed a job, sources mentioned. The merger with Discovery, which has its personal 12-year, $2 billion worldwide streaming rights cope with the PGA Tour, made Turner and the Tour oblique bedfellows. Had Turner pursued LIV golfers for The Match, it will undoubtedly trigger a battle of curiosity for their bosses, Warner Bros. Discovery’s management group, the identical individuals who pays out some $175 million to the PGA Tour in rights charges this yr.
The state of golf, Zuriff mentioned, was additionally an element. From the start, Zuriff pitched The Match as a possibility for golf to develop with youthful, wider audiences. The objective, he says now, was to make an “additive” occasion to the golf area, “not a combative one.” Over the primary six iterations, that effort has largely succeeded.
“We most likely get extra media consideration for The Match than any golf occasion apart from Augusta,” he says. “That is insane.”
In charting a path ahead, Zuriff needed to stay true to that preliminary objective, even when it meant that Mickelson could not be concerned.
“It is only a bummer as a result of he is simply been a fantastic companion for therefore lengthy,” Zuriff mentioned. “However that is a selection that he made. He understands that once you make these selections, sure issues get sacrificed. And this is without doubt one of the issues that received sacrificed.”
Disappointing as Mickelson’s departure could also be, these round The Match, Zuriff included, have shared pleasure in regards to the lineup set for Dec. 10, which they are saying is bringing the occasion’s long-term future into higher focus.
This winter’s Match occasion shall be simply the second iteration — after the unique, Tiger vs. Phil version — to function solely skilled golfers, pitting Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy towards childhood mates Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Heading ahead, Zuriff says, the objective is for 2 annual Match editions: one with superstar visitors within the heat climate months, and one with professional golfers within the chilly climate months.
“It is essential that within the fall/winter, we do actual golf,” Zuriff mentioned. “I believe the summer season lends itself to extra celebrity-driven occasions with large names. I believe with that, we have actually established the franchise.”
Zuriff could not have picked a greater forged to guide The Match into the brand new cadence. McIlroy is the Tour’s newfound elder statesman, whereas Thomas and Spieth are two of the game’s extra affable, well-liked figures. Woods is, after all, nonetheless Tiger Woods, which ought to alleviate any considerations Turner executives have surrounding the occasion’s rankings.
“I believe you recognize, one of many the explanation why we’re getting the large stars to do it on the PGA Tour is as a result of they do see the way it grows the sport,” he mentioned. “When folks authentically, authentically discuss rising the sport — I believe they are often pleased with rising the sport by way of this franchise.”
Nonetheless, the larger query, the one all 4 golfers will quickly reply, is whether or not The Match can recapture a number of the magic that carried it to early success in 2018 and ’20. In these early iterations, The Match stole the eye of each the sports activities world and the golf world. Lately, the hype has remained, however the authenticity has suffered some. In shifting again towards “actual golf,” Zuriff would appear to be angling to recapture the hardcore viewers once more.
However even when the golf falls flat, Zuriff says there is a cause each golf fan needs to be counting down the times until December 10, and it is — you guessed it — LIV. It has been an fascinating yr in golf, and with Charles Barkley as soon as once more becoming a member of the printed alongside the 4 PGA Tour holdouts, there’s not less than one factor this Match is bound to have in abundance: opinions.
“You are actually gonna get an opportunity to listen to what these guys have to consider all the things that is occurred within the final yr.”