You’re Phil Mickelson, and you’ve got a 12-foot putt on 18 dead to rights. The only sound you can make out is the gentle thump of your own heartbeat, match on the line, when …
Come on. He wouldn’t, would he?
“If he’s making fun of shots, he might be making fun of one of yours,” Broncos kicker Brandon McManus said of Peyton Manning’s golf course game face. “Or talking (like), ‘Hey, don’t forget there’s water there on the right.’ Talking you into doing something you shouldn’t do.
“Obviously, we’re amateurs at this sport. This game will humble you in one second.”
And PFM? He’ll humble you in about three.
“He’ll take his bad shots in stride,” McManus continued. “I don’t know if he makes fun of himself as much as coming at you.”
If you’re watching The Match: Champions For Charity showdown Sunday, with Manning and Tiger Woods on one side and Tom Brady and Mickelson on the other, keep an ear out for the chess games being played by No. 18, still thinking three moves ahead.
“He’s a great putter. And he’s a very good scrambler,” said McManus, who’s played with his former teammate twice — once at Cherry Hills Country Club, where Manning is a member, and once at Castle Pines. “At that point, that’s when the most pressure’s on you.
“And he’s very detail-oriented. He puts that all together when he has to hit certain shots. He does a great job with that.”
McManus is no slouch himself, sporting a 4 handicap. The Pennsylvania native interned at the U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster, Pa., five summers ago and caddied for Zach Johnson at the Masters’ par-3 contest in 2019.
“I love playing with (Manning), just the banter,” McManus said. “It’s just locker-room banter on the course, and that’s what makes it awesome to be out there. We’re all super-competitive in everything we do. At the end of the day, no one ever wants to lose.”
Vegas has installed the Peyton-Tiger team as the favorites for Sunday’s best-ball match, which is expected to raise more than $10 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. That the thing’s being played at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., Woods’ home course, certainly helps. So does the fact that Woods and Manning are old pals who’d sooner cut off a toenail than surrender to Mickelson and Brady on live television.
“First off, I’m a big Tiger fan,” McManus said. “With Tiger playing with Peyton, I would say I’m definitely rooting for that side. I think they’re a good team together.
“Tom is such a competitor and Phil has picked up his social media game with the smack talk. Tiger and Peyton have such a winning (vibe). I think there’ll be a decent amount of trash talk out there. I’ve got them pulling through.”
According to Golf Digest, Manning is bringing a 6.4 handicap to the party, compared to Brady’s 8.1. And No. 18 is already a grizzled veteran on the pro-am circuit, including Pebble Beach, with a roster of former playing partners that includes Woods and President Donald Trump. In November 2017, Manning famously notched a hole-on-one on No. 12 at Cherry Hills from 196 yards out with a 5-iron.
“I’ve been in the locker room with him, been on the field with him. He brings such a focus and a detailed approach to everything,” McManus said of the former Broncos quarterback and Super Bowl 50 champion. “And I think he does that with the game of golf.
“At the same time, when he’s on the course, he’s similar to how he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a fun mixture, a blend of those. We’re amateurs … we’re not professional golfers. I think you have to have a little SNL in you on the course as well.”
“I don’t have a loss in the books to Peyton,” McManus said. “I keep reminding him: He just doesn’t like me because I beat him twice.”