The seventh rendition of The Match is upon us, with four of golf's biggest names — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth — getting ready to tee it up for 12 holes at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida.
With these golfers holding down the Top 4 spots in this year's Player Impact Program ranking, this matchup is certainly not lacking star power, but can a hampered Tiger keep pace with the new generation of superstars?
The Match 7 picks
Picks made on 12/7/2022 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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The Match 7 winner prediction
Thomas/Spieth to win outright (-110 at bet365)
As mundane as it may be to try and handicap an exhibition match of this nature, I do believe this should come down to one thing: the play of Tiger Woods.
Generally speaking, backing Thomas and Spieth is the better play here, given their well-documented success as a pairing in team events — they have an 8-2-0 record since 2018 and went 4-0-0 together at Quail Hollow back in September.
However, it's the uncertainty surrounding Tiger's health and game that also makes the American pairing the much safer bet. It's been months since we've seen him competitively (not that this is competitive golf) and he just had to withdraw from the Hero World Challenge due to complications with his right foot.
Yes, he'll be riding in a cart and said he could "hit whatever shot you want" during his Hero World presser, but that doesn't mean he isn't by far the weakest link of the group.
These four will have a jolly good time in what should be some entertaining television, but I expect JT and Spieth to be the ones on top when all is said and done.
The Match 7 prop prediction
McIlroy/Woods longest tee shot — Hole No. 7 (-110 at DraftKings)
If there's a spot where backing Rory and Tiger makes sense, this is it. And considering Rory's length off the tee, I'm surprised this line isn't juiced more toward him and Tiger.
Most would consider McIlroy the best — and most consistent — driver on Tour and the numbers certainly bear that out. He's finished inside the Top 4 in driving distance in each of the last six seasons (second in 2021-22, 321.3-yard average) and has been inside the Top 3 in strokes gained off-the-tee almost every year since turning pro.
While JT and Spieth are both strong drivers at their best, neither compares to Rory in length. Thomas finished 14th in distance last season (314.3-yard average) while Spieth ranked out 37th (308.4). Neither has finished inside the Top 10 since JT in 2016-17.
Hole No. 7 at Pelican GC is a Par 5 that plays 542 yards from the tips. If JT and Spieth are ahead in this match by the time this hole comes around, Rory may be even more inclined to let it rip. Either way, he has the advantage.