There’s a compelling commonality to the participants in Sunday’s star-studded golf exhibition that is set to raise some $10 million for COVID-19 relief.
For the balance of his brilliant-on-its-own-merit professional golf career, Phil Mickelson has had to look up at Tiger Woods, whose 15 major championships dwarf Mickelson’s five.
And for much of his NFL career, Peyton Manning has had to do the same to Tom Brady, whose six Super Bowl titles supersede the two rings Manning has won.
Sunday’s “The Match: Champions for Charity’’ will pair the two so-called second-class citizens with the kings of their sport when Woods and Manning partner to take on Mickelson and Brady at Medalist Golf Club, in Hobe Sound, Fla., which happens to be Woods’ home course.
The show, which begins at 3 p.m., features two of the greatest individual rivalries in golf and football history in one marvelous Sunday afternoon setting. Of most importance is the charity money for a COVID-19 cause in urgent and desperate need. But pride also will be on the line.
Mickelson, whose 44 career wins and five majors are swallowed up by Woods’ 82 career wins and 15 majors, always feels like he has a score to settle. And so, too, will Manning, who spent his brilliant career watching Brady (who’s still playing, now with the Buccaneers after 20 years in New England) win three times more Super Bowl titles than he did despite his record-shattering career.
Who will win?
That doesn’t really matter. The charity dollars are what matter most.
Who wants it most?
That answer likely is Mickelson, who has spoken over the years about how his game “elevates’’ in the presence of Woods — much like in the exhibition match they played for $9 million winner-take-all in November 2018 in Las Vegas, where Lefty outlasted Tiger to win in 22 holes.
Even though Mickelson surely would trade that $9 million for a few of Woods’ majors, he has not let Woods forget about his mano-a-mano victory with some good-natured smack talk.
“You get the sense these kinds of matches don’t really matter to Tiger whereas Phil’s intensity level seems to be through the roof because he loves it,’’ Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee told The Post on Thursday. “Phil gets up for this. Who knows if Tiger’s really going to get up for this? My sense is this will bring the best out of Phil. And Tiger? Who knows what we’re going to get? I think his intensity level will be a click or two less than Phil’s.’’
Charley Hoffman, a veteran PGA Tour player who lives close to Mickelson in the San Diego area, said Wednesday that he knows Mickelson has been playing a lot of late.
“He’s been around town playing way more golf than me,’’ Hoffman said. “He’s a grinder. He loves to play golf and loves to compete. Here’s a guy almost 50 years old and he’s out there walking 36 holes, playing with anybody and everybody that wants to compete. I think Phil will be ready for that match. I think it’ll be a great product to watch on TV.’’
Chamblee doesn’t believe there should be any inferiority complex for either Mickelson or Manning, despite playing second fiddle to Woods and Brady for all these years.
“Nobody compares to Tiger Woods,’’ Chamblee said. “Phil Mickelson is the second-best golfer of the past 25 years and he’s not in Tiger Woods league — not by a long shot. But look, five major championships is an unbelievable career. Phil just happened to be chronologically cursed to be born in the Tiger Woods era. Same is true of Ernie Els. Phil and Ernie were going to be gods, and nobody would have predicted what Tiger would become. Tiger’s a Supernova. He’s Beetlejuice. He just dwarfed them.
“Phil won his share of tournaments, but he would have won who knows how many more — come close to getting double-digit majors had Tiger not come along.’’
How many more Super Bowls might Manning have won had it not been for Brady’s prowess?
Like with Mickelson, we’ll never know.
And, as Chamblee said of the unpredictability of Woods’ otherworldly dominance, no one saw Brady, the 199th player chosen in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL Draft, becoming what he became.
Manning was the first overall pick in the 1998 draft. He was supposed to be the quarterback playing in nine Super Bowls and hoisting the Lombardi Trophies six times, not Brady.
Brady and Manning have been closer statistically in their respective careers than Woods and Mickelson. The significant numbers that separate them are the championships.
Head to head, Brady and Manning played 17 times with Brady’s Patriots winning 11 of those games. Brady led the Patriots to an 8-4 record over Manning’s Colts and he and New England led the Manning-led Broncos 3-2, but Manning’s two wins with the Broncos both came in the AFC Championship game (2013 and 2015).
The two met five times in the postseason with Manning winning three.
“When you look at it, with Tiger and Brady and Manning — two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — Phil doesn’t really belong in that group,’’ Chamblee said. “You’re talking about Tiger, Brady and Manning. To find the equivalent of Brady and Manning to match Tiger, the only other place you can go is to Jack Nicklaus.’’
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