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They’ve been enemies-turned-friends, teammates, rivals and the two most iconic faces in golf this millennium. They’ve combined for 122 PGA Tour wins and 19 majors. And now, they’re planning a live-television, winner-take-all match-play face-off.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are playing for $10 million.
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) July 6, 2018
Report: The Woods vs. Mickelson match nearly happened on July 3
Per Alan Shipnuck of golf.com, the idea of this high-stakes showdown was put in motion at The Masters, when Woods and Mickelson played a practice round together. Negotiations were well underway by the time the two were paired together at The Players Championship. Mickelson was already looking forward to it:
The excitement that’s been going on around here, it gets me thinking: Why don’t we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head-to-head and just have kind of a high-stakes, winner-take-all match. Now, I don’t know if he wants a piece of me, but I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do, and I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round.
Woods also expressed his excitement: “I’m definitely not against that. We’ll play for whatever makes him uncomfortable.”
Initially, the date for the match was July 3, but final negotiations — which included a television deal and several corporate deals — didn’t finish quite in time.
“We’re working on a different date,” said Mickelson, who is currently playing in A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. “I thought it was done for the 3rd, but obviously it wasn’t.”
Expect to hear some trash talk
Shipnuck reports the match will likely take place at Shadow Creek, a Tom Fazio-designed course in the Las Vegas area. And perhaps most intriguingly, both Woods and Mickelson have agreed to be miked up throughout the round. Considering these are two of the tour’s most notorious trash talkers and they are playing for an astounding amount of money, expect some heated reactions. Per Mickelson:
“You will hear a lot of the comments that you don’t hear on regular TV. We both like to talk smack, and we both have fun with what we’re doing. And the fact that this isn’t an official tournament, that it’s just a head-to-head match, you’ll hear some of the little nuances, some of the little things that you don’t normally pick up.”
Furthermore, both players hope this is the start of a series of high-stakes exhibitions for years to come, and perhaps one that will involve other players, too, per Shipnuck.
Mickelson is No. 20 in the world, Woods No. 67
Both Mickelson, 48, and Woods, 42, have found their games again after some struggles in the past few years. Mickelson has surged up to No. 20 in the world and captured his first win since 2013 at the WGC-Mexico Championships in early March.
Woods, meanwhile, is ranked 67th in the world and climbing. He recently finished tied for fourth at the Quicken Loans National. Both players will be competing at The Open Championship in two weeks’ time.
Woods and Mickelson are the top two active earners on the PGA Tour (Woods with over $111 million, Mickelson with over $87 million) and have made plenty more off of endorsements. But $10 million is not a drop in the bucket for anyone, much less two players who have turned from steely enemies to good friends — with plenty of trash talk — off the course. This could be the ultimate bragging right.
“It’s a ridiculous amount of money,” Mickelson said. “No matter how much money you have, this amount will take both of us out of our comfort zone.”
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