Tiger vs Phil comes 15 years too late and $20 too expensive
This Friday golf enters the world of showbiz. With $9 million on the line, and the two biggest names over the previous two decades facing off in Vegas, surely it’s got the recipe for success? Gregor Kerr thinks otherwise.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will draw crowds wherever they end up. Be it Augusta National, St Andrews, or even the local shops. Their latest meeting point, on Friday 23rd November, will be hosted by Las Vegas, for the biggest ever jackpot of $9 million. Yet, not a single fan will be in attendance at the secretive Shadow Creek. Even with an almighty jackpot on the line, never has an event like this seemed so irrelevant and wide of the mark.
Maybe 15 years ago the watching world would have pounced on to ‘The Match’ with more enthusiasm. Now, it feels like one final big payday for both. Rolling out the big guns for one last time together, clip up a few heated encounters from years gone by and watch the cash roll in. The event itself is also designated for a select few. The high-rollers, VIPs and select few will be in attendance, invite-only.
In boxing, we laugh at billionaires somehow looking to host an elite fight on their private yacht. Shadow Creek will be that private yacht on Friday.
Overlooking the cynical aspects of this meeting, there’s no denying that it will catch attention. It could well be an excellent, back-and-forth event. If it’s a hit, organisers may saw an opportunity for similar events, and more even line-ups. The total purse of $9 million however is where, at least my own, interest fades away. It’s an irrelevant sum considering the prize money both have racked up in their career.
If both had stuck $1 million each it would feel more genuine, but the entire event feels a touch artificial. Then again, if both faced-off for eachother’s money, neither would have likely agreed to play.
The rivalry has calmed down since the early 2000s, mainly down to each other fortunes on tour. For this event there has been an attempt to stoke whatever flames may or may not exist. Just look at the boxing-like stare-down on Wednesday, both holding in the laughter. The promoters seem to realise that both are beyond their finest years, and the only way to cover that up is with a faux rivalry and a wad of cash. Most people can see beyond the mask.
From a betting standpoint, bars in Vegas will be screening the match, with live-betting odds and endless markets available, a unique experience for golf. Tiger and Phil themselves are most likely having the biggest wager. Mickelson earlier this week fancied his chances and bet $100k that he could birdie the first hole. Tiger’s response? “Double it.” At least this one’s going to charity.
Rory McIlroy gave a glimpse last week into how the rest of the tour view ‘The Match’. He said: “Look, if they had done it 15 years ago it would have been great. But nowadays, it’s missed the mark a little bit.”. Justin Thomas also shared the same view, tweeting: “Love TW and Phil to death…. but there’s a 0% chance I order that.”
Jordan Spieth, while conveniently in Vegas last week, had a different view: “I’m sure that myself and our friends will be watching it. Having them mic’d up and knowing them personally it’ll be kind of extra special.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of ‘The Match’ is the future it holds for televised golf. This is a unique event, for all it is criticised. Every cuss at the caddy, smack of a club, subtle dig at their opponent will be there for all of us to hear. No adverts throughout. Real time statistics, betting odds and probabilities will pop up at the side, enticing viewers into a bet.
Along with this, drone footage with ‘never before seen’ angles in live golf coverage will be accompanied with a pre-game show, with none other than Samuel L Jackson. It feels very showbiz, and perhaps that’s where the future relies for the sport.