Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang dish on Capital One’s The Match, mixed golf and playing under the lights

Rory: “I think the platform that this gives the women, I thought it was really, really important. 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.”

 

Lexi: “I heard about this and gotten invited to it a few months ago. And it was basically a no-brainer, huge honor just to be a part of it. And like Rory had said before, just not only are we teeing it up but it’s giving back to charities, multiple charities and to be able to make a difference. You know, it’s a bigger picture involved and just honored to be a part of it. To be at The Park, at a place that is growing the game itself, makes a huge impact and it’s a very cool atmosphere. It’s reasonable and affordable for anybody that wants to go out there and practice. They play music, full Track Man range and I think a mini putt-putt course maybe on the putting green I haven’t been since it like very first opened. But things like that, I think just really grow the game and that’s all we’re just trying to do. So it was a no-brainer for me to be able to tee it up, as long as I wasn’t playing in a tournament.”

 

Max: “When I was fortunate to get the invite, I didn’t really think much of it other than I get to play with three of the best golfers in the world. You know, I’m lucky enough to play with Rory or alongside Rory here and there. But yeah, I mean, just to get to go see what Lexi and Rose do up close and personal sounded like a pretty awesome. And I guess as time has gone on, I’ve realized how impactful this would be being the first time this is including the LPGA players and having them get to show the world how amazing they are. It’s an added bonus. I grew up on a very public golf course. That is rough around the edges, par-3 course and I’ve always been attached to, and I’ve always wanted more of these types of things to go to places like that. When you see a bunch of little little kids, both boys and girls out hitting golf balls or walking around the golf course it’s pretty cool. Accessibility in this game can be difficult, and I feel like that’s something that this match is kind of helping with by going to The Park, so I thought that was going to be awesome. But I guess as to why I said yes, it was just a no-brainer. I get to play golf with Rory, Rose and Lexi. That’s a lot of people’s, you know, wishlist right there. So it was it was pretty obvious yes for me.

 

Rose: “I feel like when I got the call first, it was more so a no-brainer to me. But as time went on, I realized that it’s just such a special event for a special cause and there’s so much impact that’s involved with all three of us playing. I’ve been more stoked than ever to try it out.”

 

 

Rory: “The last Match I played with Tiger and JT and Jordan, that was under the lights, and it definitely presented a few challenges. The ball reacts differently on the greens. It’s after dusk, so the greens start to get like a little bit of dew on them and the ball starts to skid and that wasn’t really something that I was expecting. But apart from that, the course is really well lit and I think it’s a really cool experience for the viewers at home. I think it creates a different visual that you don’t really see, and I wouldn’t know if this is like, The Match is like a little lab in terms of like experimenting with things that maybe could be could be done down the road and bigger events, LPGA events or PGA Tour events. I think it would be pretty cool to start doing some stuff like this where we maybe tee off a little later in the day and the back nine is under the lights. Formula One, for example, has started to do that the last few years and some of their races, and I think it’s really added to the product. I think it’s pretty cool. I’m excited to do it again. And I wouldn’t be opposed to that sort of making its way into some of the bigger tournaments that we play.

 

Max: “I’ve been lucky to play some golf under the lights. Shoutout the Hartwell skins game back in California. Eighteen holes, all under the lights and it’s fun. It’s different. Watching the ball flight, like through the light into the darkness and back into some light is pretty fun. I think it shows well on TV watching you know Rory, J.T., Tiger and Jordan’s match was cool. I understand that there’s a ton of complications that go along with doing this in a professional competition on tour, but I do think it’s something that could be looked at because it’s unique and different. I think the timing of it is great. Like I said, I love watching golf at night when I am done my duties as a parent. So I think it would have a nice little slot, and I just think it looks a bit cooler. It’s definitely harder to play in some aspects. Shadows are very long. When you get to the lights. It’s harder to see, but I think that’s that’s kind of a fun aspect of it.

 

Rose: “Last time that I really played under the lights has been a hot minute. I was back in junior golf and I was playing Hartwell, it’s just all these memories kind of popped up into my head when we were talking about under-the-light golf. And all the times that I spent after school grinding has been in the dark. So it’d be nice to actually have the light this time around while playing at the same time. And yeah, it’s such a different experience. I’m interested in seeing how I play under the lights. I have no idea as of now but presents a huge element that I’m looking forward to.”

 

Lexi: “I don’t think I’ve ever played under the lights. So this will be a new experience for me. I think the only time I have is like putt-putt, but I struggle to see my balls sometimes when it’s sunny out. So it’ll be interesting to see how well I see the flights. I think it’ll be a great experience. I don’t really know what to think of it until I experienced it, but like everybody said it would be a great experience for us all, it’d be a lot of fun. It’d be different. And I’m just looking forward to every bit of it.”

 

 

Lexi: “I think it’s very important. You know, as a woman golfer, we’re just really just trying to grow the game, and I think we’re moving in the right direction. And I really think moments like this for myself and Rose to be able to tee it up with the guys and really grow our fan base even more and just grow the game. As athletes, we just want leave the sport in a better place than it was when we first stepped out here. So to be able to see the women’s movement in the game of golf going in the right direction. That’s really all we want to see. And we want to continue to grow our fan base, and I think it’s events like this, events that are teams and matched up with the guys and hopefully from many more of these kinds of events. I think it just moves us in the right direction on both sides, the men’s and women’s

 

Rose: ” There’s just so much momentum right now in women’s sports in general. If you look at this past week, with Caitlin Clark breaking this school, the scoring record for most points, and you know, the 3-point contest with Steph (Curry) and Sabrina (Ionescu), like these are all kind of events that everyone is tuned into because it’s so different from previous years of just men individually playing, woman individually playing, and The Match essentially is just all about having fun. Our purpose is to give back to charity. So it’s almost kind of a perfect combination of just the men or women growing the game together but also having a good time, and that appeals to a different sort of audience as opposed to before where golf may have been very strict, maybe a little bit more serious than people would have liked.”

 

Max: “I watch a lot of women’s golf, especially we’re on the west coast because it’s kind of like nighttime golf for me, and it’s fun to tune in after I’m done with my day. I think what’s cool about the women’s side is, I mean if you go to a men’s event and watch Rory McIlroy hit a driver, it’s something that 99.9 percent of any golfer can’t do with the ball speed and just how high and far it goes. What’s always fun for me to show my friends that you know want to improve at golf is their ball speeds are still slower than the women but more in that realm and you know, my friends have played a lot more, as Rory said, hybrids and 5-woods into par fours and the way like the elegance that they do it and the skills that they have to do that are are something to learn from more so than how does Rory hit it 360. My friends will never be able to do that. I will never be able to do that. So I feel like it’s actually a lot. It’s quite fascinating to watch. They’re completely different skill sets. I feel like in the men’s and women’s game, but that doesn’t make one better than the other, and I feel like if people can be more exposed to that and tune into it they would find a beauty in both uniquenesses of the kind of the differences in the games. The women are incredibly accurate and make shots with certain clubs seems so easy, where you know, I’m not sure I’ve hit many greens with my 7-wood in the last year, and when I watch women’s golf, it just seems like it’s target practice. So I feel like it’s very great to watch for people who are trying to improve at golf because you’ll see how amazing they are and you can relate to the clubs in which they’re hitting into greens a bit more. And then also you’ll see that you know it’s very similar to the men. Lexi is a power player, she hits it really, really far. We probably hit it a very similar distance. I got to play with Nelly at the what’s now the Grant Thornton last year and it was pretty fascinating how much speed she has and then how much touch she had around the greens. So I just feel like the exposure for the women is long overdue and something I feel like people would be really interested in. It’s different than how the men play and it’s, you know, beautiful in a different way. So I just feel like the more eyeballs on it, the more the fans of golf will get to just see more golf.”

 

Rory: “I think it’s just all about the platform right? If we can give the women a great platform to showcase their skills. So whether it be the Grant Thornton or whether it be matches like this, whether it be like combined U.S. Open’s like we did at Pinehurst, things like that. I think it can only be good for the game of golf as a whole. I think other sports can find it easier to integrate both men and women into like the same venues. For example, tennis and the grand slams and tennis, I think the women have really what both men and women have benefited from, from having those combined venues and those combined tournaments and you know it would be great to see I don’t know if golf can get all the way there just with logistics and you might need two courses and all this sort of stuff, but if it can get closer to the bottom at least. We’re at least on a journey of trying to produce more of these events where the men and the women come together a little more often. I think it’s great for everyone.”

 

Rory McIlroy: “This is the ninth iteration of The Match. And there’s been a lot of different formats, whether it be two pros or four pros and a team thing or two pros and two athletes or four athletes. Or whatever it has been, there has been quite a lot of different formats. And 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. I think that’s a pretty interesting thing about The Match, but then also, in the past with some of the athletes that have played, I think just that relatability factor to the fan that these guys are on national television and playing a game that they’re probably not super comfortable with and that relatability to a fan at home I think has been pretty cool. 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 may

Gideon Canice

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