Tiger Woods and skins game in Japan: Our impressions of GOLFTV exhibition

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Tiger Woods and skins game in Japan: Our impressions of GOLFTV exhibition

Golf

Tiger Woods and skins game in Japan: Our impressions of GOLFTV exhibition

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Correction/clarification: A previous version of this story incorrectly described a celebration involving Hideki Matsuyama and former South African rugby player Bryan Habana.

For those who stayed awake for a midnight opening tee shot on the East Coast, perhaps the start of The Challenge: Japan Skins should have been enough of a warning that after one or two holes, this wasn’t worth losing sleep over and certainly didn’t offer the theatrics of the Skins Games of old.

Based on seniority, Tiger Woods hit the first tee shot and used driver to find the left rough. His approach missed the green left, and his next shot came off the cart path. It was a bogey start for the star of this skins show, and after Jason Day’s putt for birdie lipped out, the hole ended up being a push for pars.

From there, Woods and Day talked about sweaters (Tiger started off with a blue vest and later switched to a long-sleeve, navy Nike pullover) and the need to play fast because it gets dark very early in Japan. And we were off for four hours of made-for-TV golf that was often tedious to watch, even though the pace was accelerated by the threat of darkness.

Here are some of our impressions from the skins game:

Novelty is a good thing

Our favorite moment came on the 7th when the main cast was joined by world-class rugby players for a two-man scramble. (Tokyo is hosting the Rugby World Cup this month.) Hideki Matsuyama drained a 35-foot putt for birdie and his partner, former South African player Bryan Habana, jubilantly jumped into his arms. “He’s my partner. I’m with him,” Habana yelled.

Former Ireland rugby player Brian O’Driscoll matched the birdie with a long putt of his own as Rory McIlroy’s partner. Day also made birdie.

On-course banter is fun, so let’s hear more

Tiger and Rory looked like they were having fun out there, and you could hear McIlroy getting in the ear of the 15-time major champion. But the chatter was often drowned out by the GOLFTV analysts providing their own commentary.

Woods said after the event he and his team wanted to provide something different from last year’s match with Phil Mickelson. And unlike other skins games for TV, they decided to play all 18 holes in one day. Tiger said he hoped “we were entertaining everyone and everyone who’s watching had a good time.”

Low-level stakes, lackluster golf

So the GOLFTV production wasn’t what we are used to week to week, but the on-course interviews were a good diversion. (We heard Tiger really wants to play in the Olympics next year. Rory wasn’t offended by Brooks Koepka’s comments on their non-rivalry last week.)

But the quality of golf by the four big names wasn’t enough to carry our interest through the middle of the night. Perhaps it was the lack of big-time stakes for these guys (McIlroy won $23 million last season, which included his $15 million from the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title) or the lackluster golf, particularly those first few holes.

Whatever the case, the appeal of watching the skins game in Japan was entirely about Tiger and particularly this being our first look at him swinging a club since his latest knee surgery two months ago. On that front, it appears he’s not as good as he wants to be, but that’s no surprise to anyone. It is October after all.

“I hit a lot of bad shots and did not putt well,” Woods said. “Once I got into the flow of competing and feeling the round, it just got exciting. We were competitive, the banter was great, the back and forth. And I hit some good shots toward the end.”

Staff writers Roxanna Scott and Adam Woodard contributing

 

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