A Sportico report broke the news early Thursday: The Match 3 is coming. But this edition of the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson franchise, scheduled for Black Friday, is missing one key component: Tiger Woods.
There’s still plenty of intrigue, though: Steph Curry and Charles Barkley will reportedly join “Match” vets Mickelson and Peyton Manning on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, for some form of two-on-two showdown. We don’t know much else, except that Turner Sports is reportedly involved and CapitalOne is back on as title sponsor, too.
But sparse details mean there’s plenty of room for some good old-fashioned speculating, so let’s get to it: What are our hottest burning questions for the upcoming Match?
1. Where will The Match 3.0 be played?
The original Match venue made perfect sense — when it comes to made-for TV/made-for-gambling, pay-per-view spectacles, where better than Las Vegas? The mystique of Shadow Creek only added to the atmosphere. Yeah, the whole setup was a bit weird, but this was Vegas, where everything is weird, so it worked.
The Match II’s host site made sense, too. It was held at Medalist, Tiger Woods’ home course, which holds built-in intrigue for that reason alone and was doubly appropriate for a quarantine-era spectacle.
So what’s next? You can’t go back to Vegas, especially with Shadow Creek having just hosted the C.J. Cup. What’s another appealing warm-weather course that would be down to host on Black Friday? A Mickelson haunt like The Farms or Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego? The mysterious Wolf Point in Texas? Or somewhere like Sweetens Cove, where Manning is an owner? There are tons of good options available (and plenty of mediocre options, too!) so it’ll be interesting to see the route they choose.
Bonus question: What will the teams be? Does Lefty pick up Barkley to play the two skilled ams, or is there a more complex arrangement here?
2. How will Barkley’s game hold up to major scrutiny?
We saw the way Tom Brady’s golf game broke down under the pressure of national television. We’ve seen the way Charles Barkley’s golf swing breaks down in pretty much any situation. What happens when you apply that level of scrutiny to this level of golfer?
But you’ll recall that watching Brady struggle was actually one of the most compelling bits of that match. What’s more relatable than watching someone battle their swing and their game and try to keep spirits high in a should-be-fun foursome? I’m excited to watch Sir Charles work his way through the day, especially when his partner inevitably needs him to come up big on a stroke hole.
(Bonus question: What handicap will Chuck play to? Does Mickelson need to give him two-plus shots a hole?)
3. Does this mark the end for Tiger Woods and “The Match” franchise?
Look, we can all agree that Mickelson is an entertaining watch, and we can even agree that he carried the last Match, while Woods seemed content to stay silent, hit fairways and play second fiddle. But still — he’s Tiger Woods. There’s no question that he’s the biggest draw in the golf world and among the biggest draws in the entire sports world. Does his absence from this edition suggest that he’s seen enough of this particular format?
One possible explanation is that Woods doesn’t want to add another week of travel on top of the Masters, which will have just finished the week before, and the Hero World Challenge, which is the week that follows. For a guy who has been notably protective of his schedule, that would make sense.
But there’s also the possibility that Woods has moved on from the partnership with Mickelson. He has split off for a couple other matches recently, including a skins game ahead of the Zozo last year and his most recent course opening at Ozarks National.
Which leads us to the final bonus question: Without Woods, does this format still work?
With Mickelson flanked by three massive stars from across the sports world plus a vacuum on the sports schedule and plenty of leftover turkey sandwiches ready to consume in front of the television, I’m cautiously optimistic this will be a success.
We’ll see soon enough.