If there was any doubt as to whether The Match under the lights was a serious exhibition amongst the world’s best or a “hit and giggle,” it was quickly settled on the fourth hole at Pelican Golf Club, that dubbed the One-Club Challenge.
After making a few early birdies, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth arrived at the par 4 with a 2-up lead. On the fourth, players were allowed to select just one club to use for the entire hole and no two players could choose the same club. As intended, the challenge produced some of the craziest shots (and breaks) we’ve seen.
Spieth grabbed 4-iron, JT selected 5-wood, Rory McIlroy took 3-iron and Tiger Woods … well he initially declined to admit the club of choice (later admitting it was a 5-iron).
After the first three got off the tee, Woods proceeded to aim about 50 yards right of the fairway, slinging a massive hook back in play as if it was the obligatory trick shot at the end of a clinic.
McIlroy found a divot in the middle of the fairway off the tee and attempted a high fade with his 3-iron, which he caught heavy, finding the trees short of the green.
The wackiness had only begun. Playing his approach from the fairway, Thomas air-mailed the green with his 5-wood and his ball was bounding towards a water hazard before catching the seat of a stray golf cart and promptly stopping—in what was perhaps the break of the year.
While Rory assessed his third from the pine straw short of the green—which he had to play with his 3 iron—analyst Trevor Immelmann asked him if he had a shot. “I actually do,” McIlroy said, before remembering his required club and adding “If I didn’t have a 3-iron, I would.” Taking the straight-faced iron off the pine straw, McIlroy came up short of the green with his third.
Meanwhile, Thomas—fresh off his miracle break—enlisted Spieth and on-course reporter Kathryn Tappen to lift the wiring that was between him and the hole for his third shot. With nice touch with the 5-wood from about 10 yards off the green, Thomas ran it up the slope to about four feet for par.
With team Woods and McIlroy in for five, Thomas faced what would typically be a straightforward four-footer to take a commanding 3-up lead in the 12-hole match. Yielding 5-wood, Thomas stepped in, saying “I’m not gonna lie. I’ve never felt more uncomfortable over a putt in my life.” With the greens rolling 13 on the Stimpmeter, Thomas barely touched the putt and rolled it in to secure both the wackiest and greatest par in The Match history.
The hole was, in a word, chaotic, yet showcased the shot-making that makes these guys the best in the world. Safe to say, the one-club challenge will continue in future editions of The Match.