McIlroy looking forward to seeing LPGA stars up close and personal at ‘The Match’

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy playing under the lights in The Match #7 (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Mark McGowan

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We’re just three days from the latest edition of Captial One’s ‘The Match’ which sees Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang compete under lights in a 12-hole skins match which will also benefit a variety of charities.

Since its inception with the Tiger vs Phil match back in 2018, there have been eight matches in total, featuring a range of elite golfers including Woods, Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and McIlroy, along with a host of other big-name sports stars such as Charles Barkley, Peyton Manning, Steph Curry, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

But the next event, due to take place on Monday February 26 at The Park in West Palm Beach, Florida, will be the first to feature elite female golfers and is tailored more towards the typical golf audience as opposed to those who primarily watch to see the stars of the NFL or NBA.

And McIlroy is particularly looking forward to getting a close-up look at two of the top players on the LPGA circuit.

“Lexi and I live sort of in the same area, so we’ve seen each other a little bit on the range of the Bear’s Club and other places,” he said at a promotional press conference in Florida yesterday. “It’s incredibly impressive to watch Lexi hit the golf ball, just the speed and the athleticism is pretty cool to watch. Then with Rose, I’ve only gotten to watch her really on TV. ANWA (Augusta National Women’s Amateur) last year was obviously a huge moment, and then that hybrid that you hit into the last at Liberty National was obviously a pretty cool moment, as well.”

I’m always amused with the women and how they can control all those sorts of hybrids and fairway woods. Hopefully there’s an opportunity for us all to hit those sort of shots so I can see that up close and personal, but I think this is really cool as well because the last time you know obviously we’ve got the Grant Thornton, which is a really cool event, but the last time I really had a chance to watch a lot of the girls up close was at Pinehurst back in 2014 when we played those back-to-back U.S. Opens, so it has been a while.”

With professional men’s golf coming under recent fire for the over-emphasis on the financial side of the game, coupled with an underwhelming start to the PGA Tour season as the game becomes increasingly fractured at the top, McIlroy feels that bringing together a couple of stars from both the men’s and women’s tours, and showcasing their talents at a venue that is publicly accessible has the potential to showcase the sport in a better light.

“I think the platform that this gives the women, I thought it was really, really important,” he said. “Primetime, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the game of golf as a whole to be a little more accessible and a little more relatable. And I think the other big thing about this match as well is the fact that it’s at a public golf facility. The Park in West Palm is already growing the game in so many ways.

“I’ve witnessed it firsthand. I’ve been down there and I’ve played golf a couple of times, and if you go there on a weeknight, 6 p.m., that place is filled with kids playing golf, boys and girls. And I think that’s what was really exciting about this opportunity was the fact that we’re using a facility that is totally open to the public. And the fact that it is a mixed combined event. I had a great time at The Match with Tiger and J.T. and Jordan. But I would like to think that this Match will hopefully be more impactful for the game of golf going forward than that one. And I’m super excited about that.”

The players will be mic’d up, offering the opportunity to talk through specific shots, the difficulties and the intent, allowing viewers unique insight into both the challenges of elite level golf, the mindset of the players and the technical thoughts.

“I think the one cool thing about The Match is you sort of get a more personal insight into how people play or how they think themselves around the golf course. Obviously, we’re mic’d up and try to provide as much insight as we possibly can,” he said, before adding: “And I think this one coming up is going to be really interesting because you’ve got the contrast between how Max and I see things from the men’s side and then from you know Rose and Lexi see things from the women’s side and maybe how we might approach the golf course differently or the different shots that we may hit. So, I think this iteration of The Match is going to be really interesting just to see the difference in the thought process between the men and the women.”

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