The Match: No Substance, But We’ll Feast

The only item on a menu is always in high demand, so it’s a sign of our times that even a picky gourmand will greedily consume another manufactured McNuggets offering that sees Tiger and Phil impersonate actual rivals for those of us willing to trade nourishment for entertainment.

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“The Match: Champions for Charity” will pit Woods and Peyton Manning against Mickelson and Tom Brady to benefit coronavirus relief. The civic-minded charitable component was a late add to a plan that was being pitched to sponsors long before Mickelson teased it on social media last month, and which originally had the foursome facing off at Muirfield Village on Tuesday of the Memorial Tournament, finishing under lights in prime time.

Covid-19 scuppered the Memorial and the Match, leaving both searching for a place amid the pandemic. The main event has been moved to mid-July, the sideshow will take place in Florida sometime next month. There’ll be other made-for-TV golf events too, and we’ll tune in because it’s all we have while waiting to see if the PGA Tour’s restart — aggressively scheduled for June 11 — actually happens closer to Memorial Day or Labor Day.

Celebrity golf is what makes Saturday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am indisputably the worst day of the year for TV viewers, a ceaseless parade of C-tier stars and A-list corporate executives enjoying a level of obsequious brownnosing seldom seen outside the Oval Office. But to a starving man, even rancid meat can appear appetizing. So it says a great deal about what we’re missing that so many of us can look forward to watching four brand marketers (average age: 44) contrive to josh their way around a Florida swamp with no fans in attendance.

That catalog of exactly what we’re missing these days runs deep. Start with the simple pleasure of playing a round, a joy obscured for me long ago under a cloud of swing woes but now ached-for like a lost love. Add the fundamental companionship and fresh air the game and its environs provide. The once-commonplace thrill of watching elite golfers compete for trophies that matter, on broadcasts the technical aspects of which are dissected in real time by armchair producers on social media who could do everything better themselves. The geeky diversion of parsing public jabs by Brooks Koepka instead of reading about the porn star ‘stache he’s sporting in quarantine. Hell, some of us would even welcome a resumption of golf’s exhausting distance debate if only it replaced social distancing.

As nameless, numberless days pass in lockdown, it’s inevitable our focus will turn to golf fantasies, to curated checklists of what we’ll do and where we’ll go when normalcy — or whatever passes for such — is restored. Like many goals that are conceived in challenging times, much of what populates our wish lists probably won’t happen, or at least not anytime soon. There will be lots to do — finances to rebuild, jobs to find, lives to mourn — before we have the luxury of space for dreamy indulgences. Such lists are more about channeling positivity than practicalities, a shard of light to cling to in the gloom.

In the words of Seamus Heaney that are etched on the poet’s tombstone in an Irish graveyard, “Walk on air against your better judgement.”

The day will eventually come when we can again feast on the simple contentments we have long taken for granted. Until such times, we’ll subsist on whatever fare is available. Even a Tiger-Phil McNugget.

Published at, April 26, 2020.

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