Japan Skins: What went right and wrong with golf's latest experiment
Atsushi Tomura / Getty Images Sport / Getty

While you were sleeping, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama were squaring off in The Challenge: Japan Skins at Narashino Country Club with $350,000 on the line.

Day won the contest by claiming eight skins totaling $210,000. His biggest shot was a final-hole birdie that earned him $100,000.

None of the players were sharp at the start. On the short par-3 fifth, for example, Tiger pulled his tee shot into the greenside bunker while the other three dunked their shots into the water. Woods only needed par to earn his first two skins of the day.

Ignoring the poor play, Monday's event had its pros, but also its cons. Here's what organizers got right and wrong with golf's latest made-for-TV experiment.


The attempt

Even if you feel the Japan Skins was gimmicky or lacked excitement, kudos should be given to those in charge for taking a risk and trying something different.

The PGA Tour is extremely repetitive. Week in and week out, 100 or so players show up to play 72 holes of stroke play. Aside from the major championships, it's the same song and dance. That means one-off events like a skins game or "The Match: Tiger vs. Phil" keep things interesting, even if they aren't perfectly executed.

Plus, the more that competitions like the Japan Skins are attempted, the better they will go. The players will get more comfortable as mic'd-up entertainers and the broadcast teams will gain a better understanding of how to present the event.


Golf needs more mic'd-up players. Period.

Whether it's strategy talk between players and caddies, banter between competitors, or casual conversations about things completely unrelated to golf, fans should get a more intimate look at those on the course.

At one point on Monday, McIlroy was explaining the logistics of the Rugby World Cup to Woods. The conversation was brief and quiet because Day was lining up a putt, but it still provided a rare glimpse at how two of the best golfers in the world interact.

Sure, most of the small talk is mundane. But there's always a chance for an insightful conversation and for viewers to get a better understanding of each player's personality.

1-club challenge

In a fun, unique wrinkle, the players were forced to choose a single club to use for the entire par-5 14th. The group went with a variety of long irons, which removed the possibility of going for the green in two.

Things almost got very interesting when McIlroy considered his 5-wood. In the end, though, he changed his mind.

However, the one-club challenge still produced the most impressive moment of the event. Day displayed his short-game brilliance with this remarkable bunker shot using a 6-iron.


The timing

It's hard to believe that midnight ET is the optimal time to broadcast a made-for-TV event. With the majority of North America's East Coast in bed before the first ball was in the air, there's no way that viewership numbers will meet expectations.

Why not start at 9 a.m. local time? That's 8 p.m. ET - prime time on a Sunday night - and consumable for everyone coast to coast.

Additionally, players were fighting darkness due to the 1 p.m. start in Japan. At one point, golf carts were used to pick up the pace. The final two holes - arguably the most important - were played in the dark under spotlights, and the players struggled. Day won No. 17 with a par, and he was the only player to birdie the par-5 18th.

Where's the cash?

One of the biggest turnoffs for the match between Tiger and Phil Mickelson was the constant promotion of the $9-million prize. However, at least the money was meaningful. At the Japan Skins, competitors were basically playing for pocket change.

While the prize money is provided by the sponsors, it needs to matter - it is a skins game after all. In 2008, the last time a skins game was contested, the purse was $1 million. In 2001, Greg Norman won seven figures by himself. Hell, way back in 1983, Gary Player took home $170,000.

While money shouldn't be the focal point of an event, there needs to be a little more at stake. McIlroy just won nearly $24 million in the 2018-19 season. Do you really think a putt worth $10,000 is going to make him sweat?

Lack of trash talk

With two mic'd-up competitions in the books, it's official. Golfers are the worst trash talkers.

There wasn't a single moment in Japan where a player talked smack to a fellow competitor right before they lined up a putt. Perhaps they are too friendly with one another or they simply don't care enough to try and get inside each other's heads. Either way, a little more gamesmanship would keep fans more interested.

Japan Skins: What went right and wrong with golf's latest experiment
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