The seventh edition of Capital One’s The Match featured its strongest field of golfers yet and was played entirely under the lights for the first time. Those features made it one of the most memorable of these made-for-TV matches.
Tiger Woods and reigning FedExCup champ Rory McIlroy took on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in a best-ball competition Saturday from southwest Florida. Spieth and Thomas continued their success as a team, winning 3 and 2. They never trailed, but the camaraderie entertained throughout.
Here are five takeaways from The Match:
1. The Match wasn’t close but the trash talk and antics kept things entertaining. So did the players’ explanations about how they executed a variety of shots, such as Thomas talking about how he tried to “draw” a bunker shot so his ball would roll more. It’s a tip he took from Tiger.
2. No caddies? No problem for Spieth and Thomas, who made early birdie putts on Pelican’s slick putting surfaces to take a 2-up lead after three holes.
3. This was Woods’ first competitive appearance since The Open in July. He withdrew from last week’s Hero World Challenge with plantar fasciitis but said he had been playing well at home.
4. Woods famously won at Firestone in the dark and McIlroy won a major, the 2014 PGA Championship, after sunset. But they only had to play one hole without sunlight. All 12 holes of The Match were lit only by floodlights, as the competition didn’t start until 7 p.m. Eastern.
5. The one-club challenge on the fourth hole produced the anticipated chaos, with Thomas winning the hole by making par with only a 5-wood. Woods played a stinger down an alternate fairway, then hit a hook shot with so much curve that its tracer line screamed across the television screen. A golf cart had to be moved so McIlroy could attempt his third shot.