It might not have been as compelling as some had hoped, but at least golf fans got to watch Tiger Woods on a golf course -- under the lights on a Saturday night, no less.
Woods, who was competing for the first time since missing the cut at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews in July, had a few good moments but the competition belonged to Spieth and JT. The winning duo combined to make seven birdies to take down their opponents. Woods and McIlroy combined for just one.
Still, it was a good night and a fun event that raised millions of dollars for relief efforts in Florida after the devastation of Hurricane Ian.
"The fact that we were able to do something under the lights that never before happened in our sport, to be able to grow it in a different way," Woods told TNT when he was asked what he would remember most. "Also, the people who got devastated by Hurricane Ian. We were able to create a lot more funds, a lot more opportunities for people to regrow back here, and that's important. We're Floridians. I know from the eastern side what kind of devastation it can do. These people are left with no homes and no lives, and I'm glad we were all able to come together and do something about it."
Woods, 46, has competed in two previous editions of The Match, but it was the debuts for McIlroy, Spieth and Thomas. Here's how The Match played out:
That's a wrap
And that's that. JT and Spieth took down Rory and Tiger. "Second place isn't bad, guys," Thomas told McIlroy and Woods after Spieth's winning putt.
Hey Tiger and Rory ...— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 11, 2022
WHAT HAPPENED?!?! pic.twitter.com/twrgI3C6pP
Introducing Alabama University
It always goes back to the Iron Bowl. Charles Barkley, a former Auburn basketball star, gave JT grief about "Alabama University."
Turning up the trash talk
A look into the future?
The year is 2055. The Match is being played at a new country club on Mars. Charles Barkley says something funny. I follow up with a stupid tweet out of envy. Tiger holes an 8 footer on the last to beat Spieth's son 1-up— max homa (@maxhoma23) December 11, 2022
JT and Spieth lead the way
These guys are good. Using just a 5-wood on a one-club challenge on the 455-yard, par-4 fourth hole, JT somehow makes par. JT and Spieth are 3-up after four holes. Tiger and Rory have plenty of work to do.
455-yard par 4. Using nothing but a 5-wood.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 11, 2022
JT makes par. pic.twitter.com/1LM1Ud3o7Z
Here comes Charlie
Woods said his 13-year-old son, Charlie, still hasn't beaten him but recently outdrove him.
"I hate to say it, but I'm going to admit it. He finally did it a couple of weeks ago," Woods said. And Tiger said the day Charlie beats him "is coming." They'll play together in next week's PNC Championship in Orlando.
"I'm gonna admit it. He finally did it."— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 11, 2022
13-year-old Charlie Woods is already outdriving his dad 😮pic.twitter.com/ZwCNZgIprH
Early check-in with Tiger
Charles Barkley with a serious journalistic question to Woods: "How's your foot?" Tiger's response: "It's still attached. It's good."
It's real golf now -- and John Daly isn't even there.
Justin Thomas already with a Coors Light cracked open in the cart, in case you're doubting the seriousness of tonight's festivities. pic.twitter.com/ECAoqlwvXC— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) December 10, 2022
Under the lights
We're minutes away from the start of the seventh edition of The Match, and as Woods pointed out, it's the first time it will be played entirely under the lights.
A special Saturday red for Tiger. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/ogQYtzQgTR— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 10, 2022
Lefty sends regards
Raise your hand if you were expecting an olive branch from Mickelson today.
I'm proud to have been a part of the creation of The Match. Today will be a fun,funny and insightful version and I'm wishing Tiger,Rory,JT,and Jordan all the best. I'll be watching it on TNT and I hope you will too.— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) December 10, 2022
Setting the scene
Jordan. Justin. Rory. Tiger.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 10, 2022
The range awaits 🏌️♂️ pic.twitter.com/UXawRJxrhX
Previewing The Match
Woods, a 15-time major champion, plans to compete even as he is struggling to recover from plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He was forced to pull out of last week's Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, which benefits his foundation, and told reporters there that doctors advised him that the painful condition is related to injuries he suffered in a car wreck outside Los Angeles in February 2021.
Woods said being able to use a golf cart will help him tremendously, and that "it's just hard getting from point A to point B." He competed in only nine rounds in three majors last year. His last start was a missed cut at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews in July.
Golf fans will certainly be happy to see Woods swinging a club again. He also plans to play with his son, Charlie, in next week's PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida. Woods will again be able to use a cart in that 36-hole event.
With former NBA great Charles Barkley once again providing commentary during The Match, there figures to be plenty of humor. And it's hard to imagine that there won't be a few jabs at LIV Golf and its CEO and commissioner, two-time Open winner Greg Norman, during what might be an infomercial for the PGA Tour. Last week, McIlroy told the Independent of London that he plans "to make it my business now to be as much of a pain in [Norman's] arse as possible."
While the golfers are friendly competitors, McIlroy says none of them like to lose.
"I've been on the wrong side of them in the Ryder Cup before I'm trying to get one back on them," said McIlroy. "I couldn't ask for a better partner. The partner I had against them previously doesn't quite compare to the one I'll have on Saturday night."
The 12-hole match will start at 6 p.m. ET and be played under the lights. It's a best-ball format, in which each player plays his own ball on holes and the lowest score of the two players counts as the team score.
"I can tell you one thing: I've got the No. 1 player in the world on my team, so I'm good," Woods said. "He'll have the best cheerleader he's ever had."
McIlroy is expecting more from his teammate.
Thomas and Spieth are slight favorites (-130) over McIlroy and Woods (+110), according to oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook.
"[Tiger is] probably the best iron player who has ever lived," McIlroy said. "Probably the best golfer who has ever lived, period. I think if he can get it out there in the fairway and get some looks from the fairway, I think we're going to have a very good chance."
There figures to be plenty of friendly trash-talking starting with the first tee shots.
"It's kind of hard to trash-talk them," Thomas said. "I feel like on the first tee Jordan and I just need to get it out in the open that, OK, you guys have more majors than us, you have more FedEx Cups than us, you both have an airplane and we don't, let's just get that out in the open that way we don't get it used against us in our match."
"They're both quick and witty," Spieth said. "I was saying to Justin that we might have to take the nice guy route, which isn't normal for us in these types of matches."
"Either way, it won't work," Woods added.