Bromance will be strong in the seventh edition of The Match. Featuring 15-time major champion Tiger Woods alongside his business partner and good friend Rory McIlroy squaring off with the all-American duo of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, the charity golf exhibition welcomes four major champions to Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida, on Saturday.
Woods and McIlroy possess 19 major championships between the two, while Spieth and Thomas lag behind with a measly five. While both pairs are experienced, only Woods has previously participated in The Match. Playing in the inaugural competition, Woods fell to Phil Mickelson in extra holes before exacting revenge over Mickelson and Tom Brady alongside Peyton Manning in the second edition of the event.
The 46-year-old may know what to expect from the competition, but perhaps not from his own game. Not seen in competition since The 150th Open, Woods was expected to play in the 2022 Hero World Challenge before being forced to withdraw due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
"I like playing, I like competing, but unfortunately, I can hit the golf ball and hit whatever shot you want, I just can't walk," said Woods at the onset of his event in The Bahamas.
Fortunately for Woods, all competitors will use golf carts, and he happens to be paired with the best player in the game in world No. 1 McIlroy. The Northern Irishman is fresh off winning the DP World Tour Championship, capturing the European crown in conjunction with his FedEx Cup title from this past summer. McIlroy may be in the best form of the four players, but doubting Spieth and Thomas in a team competition has proven to be unwise in the past.
Garnering a 4-0-0 record with each other at the 2022 Presidents Cup, Spieth and Thomas were unstoppable at Quail Hollow Club in September. They are 16-7-1 when paired together between the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, and should give Woods and McIlroy all they can handle over the course of a 12-hole best ball match.
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The Match 7
Date: Saturday, Dec 10 | Time 7 p.m. ET
Location: Pelican Golf Club -- Belleair, Florida
Broadcast: TNT | Simulcast: TBS, truTV, HLN
The Match will be contested under 12 holes of match play and best-ball format. Each player will play his own ball, and the best individual score from each team will count for the hole.
Tiger Woods & Rory McIlroy: They played in an exhibition at Big Cedar Lodge following the 2020 U.S. Open, but outside of that and practice rounds, the two do not have any experience alongside each other in the team setting. Woods is the major question mark among the four players, but any concerns may be squashed given his playing partner. McIlroy is playing some of the best golf of his career, and Woods has alway been known as someone to underdeliver to the media and overdeliver on the golf course. Perhaps this will be one of those instances as well.
Jordan Spieth & Justin Thomas: Thomas finished the Hero World Challenge on a high note to grab a solo fifth-place result, while Spieth nearly brought up the rear for the second straight year. These two can ham-and-egg it with the best of them and know each other's game maybe better than their own. With a history of performing at their peak alongside each other, it is no surprise they are listed as the favorites in this one. However, if Tiger and Rory are smart (which they are), they won't be giving these two too many gimmes -- much to the dismay of Thomas -- as short putts have been a thorn in both of their sides.
Rick Gehman, Kyle Porter and Patrick McDonald preview The Match featuring Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy vs Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
Spieth/Thomas: -125 | Woods/McIlroy: +105
There has been significant movement in this line since opening. Woods and McIlroy were actually -120 favorites at one point, but have since drifted to plus money as the underdogs. Spieth and Thomas should hypothetically roll, however, these charity events have seen some surprises with the best putters tending to win. That isn't the strength of Thomas, and surely not Spieth, which makes me believe the current form of McIlroy combined with a sprinkle of Woods magic will be enough to see them come out on top. Pick: Woods/McIlroy +105