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

Capital One’s The Match is back, and it’s unlike any version before.

For the first time, the live golf series event will feature mixed golf competition between Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang on Monday, Feb. 26, at “The Park” in West Palm Beach, Florida, under the lights.

The format is mixed skins, with each hole being worth a specified amount for charity.

All four golfers will utilize the same tees for the four par-3 holes in the routing, while the remaining eight holes will use varying tee boxes and yardages for the men and women. The golfer raising the most funds through the skins format at the end of the event will be declared the winner.

The 12-hole event will be live on TNT, truTV, HLN and streaming on Max starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.

On Thursday, the four golfers held a press conference with media members to discuss The Match, playing golf under the lights and what they look forward to when playing mixed competitions. Here’s what they had to say:

What are you looking forward to about playing with Rory and Max?

2023 Grant Thornton Invitational
Lexi Thompson putts on the first green at the Grant Thornton Invitational at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.

Lexi Thompson: “I’ve gotten to play in the Grant Thornton a few times, and I think it’s just an amazing format to be alongside the guys and have a team aspect to it. Golf being such an individual sport, we don’t get this opportunity very often, especially alongside the guys, so it’s great to be paired up with them. It’s a lot more fun. You get to see some pretty amazing shots and it’s a fun side of the golf part of it. You know, it’s not one-on-one and it’s just a lot more fun. I think fans really enjoy it as well.”

Rose Zhang: “I 100 percent agree with Lexi. Such an incredible opportunity for us to just tee up with the men. You know, growing up there weren’t a lot of female players around me. And, you know, you kind of see the men’s side and you watch them play golf your entire life. So being able to tee up alongside someone like Rory and Max that I’ve kind of looked up to ever since I started golf, kind of a really cool turnaround moment for me and like what Lexi reiterated before, you definitely learn a lot from the men’s side.”

What do you look forward to seeing from Lexi and Rose?

The Match VII
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the first tee during The Match 7 at Pelican at Pelican Golf Club on December 10, 2022 in Belleair, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for The Match)

Max: “My first time I saw Lexi, I’ve played with both of her brothers and I played college golf with her brother Curtis, we played at Isleworth. And she came and hit balls one day after we were done. She had already had a ton of success and we were all young, 19, 20 years old. And the amount of success you already had, I think she’s still you know, she was still younger than everybody there, and it was amazing. How many of the guys stopped to just watch her. I think she was hitting drivers when I walked by and everyone’s watching her hit them. It was incredibly impressive. It made sense why she had had so much success already. And then Rose. Rose, I’m a humongous Rose fan. I hate that she is a Stanford person. But that aside, I haven’t gotten to see her play a lot of golf. I got to meet her at the Masters last year and she’s awesome. No Laying Up did a piece on the Stanford women’s golf team. I think it was last year, a year and a half ago, and it was really cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at her as a golfer, her as a person and obviously her as a student as she is still in class to this day. So it’s been fun to follow her career as a fan. Similarly to Lexi’s, it’s been pretty cool but not getting around much of them in person to watch their golf game. So that’s what I’m looking forward to in this match, I want to see it in person. I want to feel my inadequacy to their golf games.”

Rory: “Lexi and I live sort of in the same area, so we’ve seen each other a little bit on the range of the Bear’s Club and other places. It’s incredibly impressive to watch Lexi hit the golf ball, just the speed and the athleticism is pretty cool to watch. Then with Rose, I’ve only gotten to watch her really on TV. ANWA (Augusta National Women’s Amateur) last year was obviously a huge moment, and then that hybrid that you hit into the last at Liberty National was obviously a pretty cool moment, as well. I’m always amused with the women and how they can control all those sorts of hybrids and fairway woods. Hopefully there’s an opportunity for us all to hit those sort of shots so I can see that up close and personal, but I think this is really cool as well because the last time you know obviously we’ve got the Grant Thornton, which is a really cool event, but the last time I really had a chance to watch a lot of the girls up close was at Pinehurst back in 2014 when we played those back-to-back U.S. Opens, so it has been a while.”

Is there any part of Rory or Max's game you're interested in seeing up close?

Rose Zhang of the United States plays her shot from the ninth tee during the first round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 18, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Rose Zhang of the United States plays her shot from the ninth tee during the first round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 18, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Rose: “I will say that, not only are their drives, I mean, obviously on the men’s side, they’re hitting it farther… seeing the golf ball fly. Oh, even Lexi, too. But I’m also very interested in seeing how the short game and putting is just because in order to have that sort of touch, especially on Tour on a week-to-week basis, they’ll be really cool to kind of see how they play magic with their heads.”

Why was it important to play in a mixed-team event?

2024 Genesis Invitational
Max Homa lines up a putt on the fifth green during the second round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 16, 2024 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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.”

Experience playing under the lights

The Match VII
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up a putt during The Match 7 at Pelican at Pelican Golf Club on December 10, 2022 in Belleair, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for The Match)

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.”

Why is including women in The Match so important?

Lexi Thompson
Lexi Thompson looks on from the fifth tee during the first round of The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican at Pelican Golf Club on November 09, 2023 in Belleair, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

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.”

What makes you tune into The Match as a fan?

Max Homa of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk together during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession on February 25, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Max Homa of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk together during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession on February 25, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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 maybe how we might approach the golf course differently or the different shots that we may hit. So, I think this is, you know, this iteration of The Match is going to be really interesting just to see the difference in the thought process between the men and the women.

“I’m super excited to tee it up with Rose and Lexi and, Rose has obviously burst on the scene the last couple of years and it’s been amazing to watch her rise. I just think the consistency of Lexi over the course of the last, jeez. I don’t know. I think I feel like Lexi and I have, sort of our careers have sort of tracked each other in terms of how much we’ve played and when we sort of broke onto the scene. So it’s, it’s gonna be exciting for me to be a part of this and, you know, we’re doing it at a public golf facility, which again goes back to that relatability to the fan at home and not being at a private facility that not many people can get access to. Overall, I think this is going to be really cool.”

Max Homa: “I agree with Rory. I think the relatability parts really fun on TV. I think. You know, for The Match, I like when whether it’s an athlete, that’s not a golfer or the golfers, their guards are down a bit. They talk a bit more. They laugh a lot more. I feel like in a golf tournament, you’re being shown for the 30 or so seconds you hit the golf shot, and then they might flashback to and then they move along. In this case, I think it’s more unique because it’s fun. It’s a competition, but it’s fun and more likely to get questions out of myself to Rose or Lexi or Rory about a shot they hit or you know, I think some people think it’s supposed to be essentially like a trash-talking comedy show, but I’ve found a lot of it quite fun just to see how the people playing are people and they hit bad shots and laugh it off or you know, hit great shots and kind of gloat a little bit kind of like you would just, you know, as a Sunday golfer. I’m always I mean, anytime Charles Barkley is on a call, I find that to be incredibly entertaining. So I feel like those things when I’ve tuned in The Match that that’s kind of what’s always piqued my interest.”

If you could create a Match from players in any era, who would it be and why?

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy acknowledges the crowd after making his putt on the second hole during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Rory: “I think one of the cool things about golf is being able to, or at least trying to, compare generations, so I was always a big fan of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf growing up. You had a lot of the greatest players ever to play those matches. I mean, it’s hard. I think there’s too many great players in the history of the game to try to just put up a foursome together because off the top of my head, I’m like OK, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus. Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Sevy. I mean, you could go on and on down the list. And you know, I’m a pretty big historian of the game, and I really appreciate where the game has come from and what it’s evolved into and how that has benefited me and sort of all of my peers up until this point. I think it’s hard to create a foursome on a format that would really do the history of golf justice, but take your pick. There’s so many different ones that you could do, but I think trying to compare generations, being able to compare Hogan to Tiger and both of their primes would be something that’d be really cool to watch.”

What are your thoughts on DJ Khaled, one of the commentators, bursting on the golf scene?

DJ Khaled speaks to the media after the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
DJ Khaled speaks to the media after the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Lexi: “I don’t really know what to think about it, but it’s kind of exciting. It’s different. I don’t know. I don’t know his personality or anything but I think it’s great to have a different personality involved.”

Rory: “I think it’s really cool. Having someone like DJ Khaled involved in the game of golf. It can, it can only be a good thing again, sort of trying to make it more accessible and relatable and fun. You know, I think having him involved in any way can only be helpful.”

Max: “I think like everybody got kind of obsessed with his golf on his Instagram for a while, so excited to see it and hear it up close.”

Do any of you know who Paul Bissonnette is? (Another commentator for The Match)

Max: “I know because he played hockey He lives down by me so I know Biz really well. He’s an interesting human being in all the great ways. I don’t know if a lot of people know him because wasn’t the best hockey player, but he’s gotten really into golf as of late. Again to Rory’s point, it’s cool when people in other sports and people who relate to different demographics get into golf because I feel like it plays a big role and getting more and more eyeballs on golf but even more importantly, more people playing golf. As much as obviously we want people to watch us play, like it’s really awesome when you hear about people getting into the game later in life because it means something to attract them to it, and I think Paul has been doing a good job of doing that.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek