One of the most unusual sights in sports is seeing Tiger Woods standing idly by while his opponents are celebrated as winners. Together with Rory McIlroy, Woods experienced a resounding defeat in the seventh edition of The Match, losing to golf’s dynamic duo and long-time friends, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
With his arms crossed, the 15-time major champion watched as Spieth and Thomas were awarded commemorative bracelets. Throughout the night on December 10, trash talk had been exchanged like rapid-fire bullets under the Florida lights at Pelican Club. Spieth had one final verbal blow remaining.
Amidst giggles, Spieth jabbed, “The joy of receiving this doesn’t match the joy of standing here with Tiger, watching him be so upset that he has to stand here for this.” Woods’ composed expression cracked, his face breaking into a wide smile followed by a head shake.
Woods alone had an astonishing six more major titles and 31 more PGA titles than the combined achievements of the three great golfers beside him. Spieth understood this staggering gap all too well. However, it was precisely this disparity that made the final blow all the more satisfying, as the golfer from Dallas explained.
“He’s in a position where he doesn’t even need to justify fighting back,” Spieth revealed to CNN. “He laughs, he’s pissed off. He’s pretty much like, ‘All right, go home kid.’ That’s the message I got from that smile.”
“And for me, it was sarcasm. He’s a guy who you never expect to see standing around while someone else wins. Because, first, he rarely loses, and second, the few times he did, I’m sure he was far away from the award ceremony.”
In accordance with tradition, the banter between the players wearing microphones and the commentary team helped foster a friendly competitive atmosphere throughout the event. The Match aimed to raise funds for relief efforts in Florida after Hurricane Ian struck in October.
At times, the relentless verbal warfare between Thomas and NBA legend Charles Barkley stole the spotlight from the golf itself, a role reversal that initially made Spieth somewhat anxious.
“I was super nervous to get started because it was a new role – we had to entertain,” Spieth admitted. “It was a mix of excitement and anxiety, not really knowing what to expect.”
“The four of us have always had a good relationship… drawing a lot of people and generating a lot of interest. I think that really helped us get comfortable.”
When it comes to comfort, there is no one Spieth feels more at ease with than Thomas. These long-time friends became only the third pair in history to remain undefeated in the first four rounds of the Presidents Cup in September, extending their combined record across President Cups and Ryder Cups to an impressive 8-2-0.
“We simply have a lot of fun,” Spieth shared. “It eases the pressure when we’re playing because if one of us has a bad hole, we’ll be self-deprecating, and the other will laugh. Suddenly, we become more comfortable. And on the good holes, we hype each other up, using phrases that are funny to us.”
“Imagine going out with your best buddy in a high-pressure situation. That has tremendous benefits in terms of feeling completely at ease. It’s kind of an addictive feeling.”
The victory at The Match marked the culmination of a strong year for Spieth, showcasing his return to top form. After an impressive start to his career with three major victories in his first four years on the Tour, he experienced a relative slump that saw him fall outside the top 50 for the first time since his remarkable rookie season in 2020.
However, after ending a 1,351-day trophy drought and finishing as