At precisely 3 p.m. PT on Nov. 14, Netflix began live streaming its first-ever sports event, The Netflix Cup golf tournament from the Wynn Las Vegas, the only 18-hole golf course located on the Vegas strip.
The two-and-a-half hour event was everything one might expect from industry disruptor Netflix crashing a normally hushed golf tournament: noise, chaos, odd celebrity pairings (Mark Wahlberg, Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, NBA’s Blake Griffin and DJ Steve Aoki in person; Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes via Zoom), dropped mikes, jumbled camera shots, overhead drones, a steady stream of departing airplanes overhead from nearby Harry Reid International Airport, profanity and an exciting finish under the lights against the backdrop of the Sphere.
That’s right: Nighttime golf.
Through it all, two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas hit the ball closet to the cup on the final hole to help Spanish teammate, F1 driver Carlos Sainz, defeat French F1 driver Pierre Gasly and his teammate, PGA Tour pro Tony Finau (replacing last minute scratch Collin Morikawa), and hoist the inaugural Netflix Cup trophy, presented by smiling Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.
In front an enthusiastic gallery (primarily there to see the PGA pros), two teams of four players featuring England’s F1 driver Lando Norris and PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler teed off against Sainz and Thomas. The second match featured Thailand’s F1 driver Alex Albon and PGA Tour pro Max Homa vs. Gasly and Finau. The winners of each match met for a one-hole playoff.
From the outset, the first hole was anything but ordinary, with each set of teams trying to drive the ball and complete the hole as fast as possible (in a nod to this weekend’s F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix and Netflix’s popular “F1: Drive to Survive” docuseries). The resulting free-for-all left event host Kay Adams confused as to what was happening, while sideline hosts, including former NFL RB Marshawn Lynch and comedian Bert Kreischer added to the craziness. In the end, no one playing knew who actually won the hole.
Things calmed down as PGA golfer and Netflix “Full Swing” star Joel Dahmen cooly explained how pro golfers approach their shots as the competition moved on. Thomas was especially good giving input to teammate Sainz. He was clearly there to win.
Indeed, Thomas won the long drive competition with a shot reaching 327 yards. But no one came close to winning a special $4.56 million hole-in-one shot on the fifth hole, which had to be hit behind the back of a giant “Squid Game” doll — and only when her oscillating head faced away from the golfer. Failure to do so would negate the shot.
The prize was in reference to Netflix’s upcoming “Squid Game: The Challenge” reality competition show that will award one winner $4.56 million in cash.
The real winner was Netflix, which proved it could bounce back from last year’s disastrous “Love is Blind” live reunion episode that failed to launch due to technical glitches, and stage a live sports event on par with Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football,” and Major League Soccer on Apple TV+, which remain the only original live sports streaming on U.S. platforms.