The Match III betting preview: Everything hinges on Barkley
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Out of commission after going overboard on Thanksgiving? Not into Black Friday shopping? Then post up on the couch and wager on some golf.

No, it's not PGA Tour golf, but the two-on-two charity match pitting Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley against Peyton Manning and Steph Curry will surely entertain.

"The Match: Champions for Change" is the third edition of the made-for-TV golf event and the first without Tiger Woods. He'll be missed, of course, but the injection of Curry - a scratch golfer - and Barkley changes the dynamic.

Manning and Curry are the betting favorites at -170 for the event that begins at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, but before putting money on it, it's crucial to understand the format. Barkley is by far the worst player in the group, and figuring out his significance in the match will determine your betting success.

The foursome will play a modified version of alternate shot. For example, Mickelson and Barkley will both tee off and then swap balls for their second shots; Mickelson will hit from where Barkley's tee shot goes and Barkley from where Mickelson's lands. After their second shots, the pair will determine which ball is better and alternate shots from there.

At first, you might think this format favors Manning and Curry. They're relatively close in terms of skill level and will often have two chances at hitting the green in regulation - assuming they can both hit mediocre drives. But this system also gives Mickelson the opportunity to hit more shots regardless of how bad Barkley is, and that's ultimately more important since Lefty is easily the best player of the bunch.

All Barkley has to be is average off the tee to give Mickelson a chance with his second shot. The duo will know this, and a video posted by Mickelson on Instagram suggests as much; Barkley is using an iron off the tee, and his swing doesn't look that bad.

Mickelson owns Stone Canyon Golf Club, so it's safe to assume he knows the course exceptionally well, and he'll be able to coach Barkley throughout the day and put him in positions to succeed.

"Sir Charles" will also have his own set of tee decks that will make the course play shorter for him and help mitigate his overall lack of ability. Shorter holes with irons off the tee for Barkley will give Mickelson plenty of opportunities to hit approach shots close.

Then there's the motivation factor. You know Mickelson wants to win badly - he pretty much lives for these events now. And you also know the last thing he wants to do is lose back-to-back matches to Manning.

In the end, this match comes down to Barkley, and the general perception is that he's a horrible golfer. His infamous swing from years past is still ingrained in people's minds. As a result, he and the 44-time PGA Tour winner are underdogs when they really shouldn't be.

Pick to win: Mickelson-Barkley (+140)


Since we're bullish on Barkley being better than people believe, and given the fact he'll be hitting from the forward tees and likely playing conservative off the tee, let's take a chance that Chuck brings his A-game.

Barkley to hit 1st fairway: +220

Barkley to hit 2nd fairway: +180

The Match III betting preview: Everything hinges on Barkley
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