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.
Sunday’s win at the PGA Championship was the latest installment of Brooks Koepka’s steady rise to domination of world golf.
The 28-year-old Florida native collected his third major in 14 months and further cemented his status as the leading light in the current crop of young stars excelling in the game.
But for all Koepka’s excellence in achieving this monstrous feat at such a young age, he is still somewhat underappreciated – an argument that seems ludicrous after his latest major triumph.
He may have the square jaw, the high-watt smile and the comic book character looks, but this hasn’t been enough to capture the attention of the American public who seem to dislike the fact that he doesn’t watch much golf, stays low key and shows little emotion.
But the resilience he showed to fend off Tiger Woods in St Louis will certainly make his rise less underappreciated now and catapult his stature to new heights.
Rory McIlroy – at 29 – may be the elder statesman with his four majors, Jordan Spieth is close behind on three and Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are level on one each. And with Rickie Fowler still to get off the mark, this proves how difficult these tournaments are to win.
Indeed, with his recent successes over the last year, could Koepka be the late bolter in this generation to end up with the most majors?
It’s difficult to say at this stage but he is in the ideal position, with a powerful game off the tee and an arrow-like short game contributing to his success. He’s young, fearless, his game is fresh, he has no big commitments outside of golf, no business interests and there is no expectation on his wide-spaced shoulders.
In his 20 major appearances to date, the Jupiter resident has eight top-10s and six top-5s, with seven straight top-25s coming before he even lifted his first major at Erin Hills last year.
In non-majors this year, he has two second place finishes, five top-10s and seven top-25s in 13 tournaments, with his overall consistency putting him third in the FedEXCup standings behind only Johnson and Thomas. Two of the men currently setting the bar for American at present.
The desire is clearly there and his career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year – where he missed the Masters – made him realise how important the game is to him and how much he loves competition.
He’s at a wonderful stage now but that expectation is only going to increase as he moves on in life. For all the skills and mental toughness needed on the course, it will be interesting to see if he will possess the same freshness and drive to win trophies in three to five years time.
All these guys have the potential to win on any given week but it comes down to the hunger, the ruthlessness, the selfishness to put golf first before other things comes in and contaminate the mindset. Koepka needs to keep this form up and not let the outside music distract the melody he is making.
Players like Tiger Woods and Spieth may be household names in the US, but Koepka certainly has a bright future in the game ahead of him. And with the Ryder Cup taking place next month, he has the chance to further showcase his sheer class as America bid to defend their title on European soil.
With one month to go until the Ryder Cup in France, the first eight Team USA players have been confirmed following the conclusion of the PGA Championship.
With the top eight players selected from points gained at every PGA Tour event, WGC and major, the remaining four slots will be down to the team management over the next few weeks.
Here, we take a look at the players named in Jim Furyk’s squad.
A fascinating year for the 28-year-old. With a third major win in 14 months, he now surely deserves serious recognition among the golf public after his stunning victory at Bellerive. The World No2’s devastating game off the tee and razor-like short game has parachuted him into being the leading figure in the current crop of star players – and based on current from, he will be difficult to stop in France.
The 33-year-old has the most complete game in the sport and will be a pivotal figure when America set out to retain their Ryder Cup title next month. The Florida resident has missed only one cut in 16 starts this year, including three top-5s, top-10s and three tournament wins. It may be another year without a major win for the best player in the world but Johnson has the tools and desire to improve further in 2019.
The World No3 may not be the same household name as Justin Spieth and Dustin Johnson, but has proven to be equally as influential. It’s hard to imagine the 25-year-old has yet to play in the Ryder Cup, despite a career to date in which he has won eight PGA Tour titles, the FedEX Championship and a major. With two top-5s, four top-10s, seven top-25s and two tournament wins this season, the Kentucky native will be a serious addition to Furyk’s side next month.
The Masters champion would have been part of the team regardless of his ranking, given his history in high pressure matches. He is unbeaten in singles (2-0-0) and fourballs (3-1-0) during his two Ryder Cup appearances. The 27-year-old has secured one top-5 and two top-10s in his 10 tournament starts since his triumph at Augusta. Has the confidence and potential to be a consistent top-10 ranked player for years to come.
The 39-year-old famously missed out on the 2016 edition despite holding a top-8 raking at the moment. Stepping in as a vice-captain, the Florida man used his presence to help the Americans to a first title since 2008. Four missed cuts in the last seven tournaments, including the Open and PGA Championship, will surely disappoint him but expect him to hit top form come golf’s premier match play competition.
Results may have not gone his way over the past 12 months but the 24-year-old is still a three-time major winner. Has proven to be a force with Reed in their last two Ryder Cup appearances and if he can improve his putting – his biggest strength in previous years – then expect him to add to his 11 career Tour wins before September’s showpiece. Recent results may be off his overall expectations, but if Spieth can replicate his final round form at Bellerive, then he could be a serious force in the French capital.
A career best second at the Masters earlier this year will have boosted the confidence of Fowler, who makes the team for a fourth time – at just 29. Has shown a penchant for heating up on the grand stage and will be bidding to better his 2-4-5 record in previous Ryder Cups. At present, his form looks solid, with three top-10s eight top-25s over his last 18 starts – including three missed cuts. Still chasing that elusive major win.
The Players Championship winner has finished in the top-20 of each major this season. His win at Sawgrass was perhaps his finest as he jumped from 29 to nine in the Ryder Cup rankings. The 33-year-old will make his third appearance for America and looks to have hit a fine run of form at the right time ahead of next month’s showdown.