In the old days it was duels between Couples v Watson, Hogan v Snead and Norman v Faldo. Now later this year, it’s Tiger Woods v Phil Mickelson, a one-on-one match many want to see but perhaps two men a decade past their best form.
The showdown – dubbed ‘The Match’ – will take place in November at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas with a winner-takes-all purse for the victor over one round, estimated to be around $9million.
Woods and Mickelson, the two richest golfers of their generation, rank first and second on the career prize money leaderboard (with $112.2m and $87.6m respectively), yet neither man will provide his own money for this exhibition match. In fact, the mammoth pot on offer for the winner is financed from sponsors KPMG and Nike.
And for all the media hype circulating, the reality is both players are long past their peak years and just merely cashing in while they can.
Woods, who has 14 major titles in the bank, is clearly the most decorated golfer of the modern era behind the great Jack Nicklaus and even despite his recent upturn in fortunes at the PGA Championship in Bellerive earlier this month, has not tasted that winning feeling at any event since the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013.
Similarly, Mickelson, a five-time major champion who is currently ranked at World No22, has diminished as a force in recent years. He triumphed at the WGC-Mexico Championship back in March but that was his first tour success in five years.
Neither are in the top eight for Team USA ahead of September’s Ryder Cup showpiece in Paris, with the two golfers relying on captain Jim Furyk for two of the remaining four captain picks.
There is no doubt 42-year-old Woods and Mickelson, 48, are class acts and can pull a crowd on any given day, but it’s difficult to say how this set is up to be a genuine spectacle.
For both Americans, driving used to be their bread and butter but recent statistics show that is no longer the case, with Woods ranked 175th and Mickelson at 199th in the PGA Tour driving accuracy percentage rankings.
And what makes this so-called pairing more ambitious is the fact it’s only available on pay-per-view television. A price has not been announced yet for viewers, but the PPV aspect is a surprise considering every golf tournament is mostly aired live on network or cable television.
While boxing, MMA and wrestling have long been separate paid for entities, this golf exhibition has the potential to be a huge flop.
Nobody is going to pay a fee to watch just 18 holes of golf. Add in a possible eventuality that either Mickelson or Woods could pull away during the round, then quickly, it might become a one-sided contest and make for seriously poor viewing, leaving disappointment among the paying punters.
But even if it isn’t a success, the winner will still leave Sin City with a substantial jackpot fee – and no doubt, the loser with a hefty appearance cheque from the sponsors and commercial partners involved.
As a fan of both players, not putting this spectacle on free to air television and seeing the golfers put their own money to the cause, ruins the essence of what otherwise could be an intriguing battle.
If this match was played 15 years ago, it might interest more people, but it’s difficult to agree or be excited with this when neither are in the top echelon of players in the world at the moment – and will most likely not win a major again.
A $9m pot is sure to spark the interest of any golfer or sports person but ask any top player in the world and they would choose a green jacket or major win any day of the week over a short-term PPV bank balance booster.
For all the fun and hype it may create, it’s difficult to be enthused by the concept and it actually makes a mockery of a game built on tradition, sportsmanship and passion for the game over financial reward.
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