Tiger vs. Phil has turned into a clown show

Columnist
Yahoo Sports

Can you spare a couple of ultra-rich golfers twenty bucks?

Well, it’s actually just $19.99 for the pay per view and neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson will get that sum directly; the cable companies and the agents and the lawyers will get paid first, of course.

It’s officially dubbed “The Match” – actually it’s “Capital One’s The Match” because why not make it sound as much like a college football bowl game as possible?

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Mostly, though, it is a confusing event, something that sounded great in theory, still could be fun, but is more likely being marketed into a complete clown show.

Consider the prize: a winner-take-all purse of $9 million to either Phil or Tiger. The thing is, it’s your $19.99 that is going to fund the pot. If each put up a million of their own dollars, now it might be something. Combined, the two men have an estimated net worth in excess of $1 billion, so is $9 million even really a motivator?

The assumption is whomever wins will donate the money to charity, but there are no assurances or details about that. Adding a charity component curbs criticism but also doesn’t make much sense considering the pay per view part.

If this is about raising money for charity, then why not put it on free television, have each golfer put in a big lump sum (you know sponsors will secretly kick the cash back to the players). Then you could reach the widest possible audience and spend the approximately four hours of programming running a fundraiser, with telephone banks and GoFundMe links and testimonials about the charities chosen?

That would likely raise more than $9 million.

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson finally has a date, time and price.
Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson finally has a date, time and price.

Organizers can argue that the $19.99 to watch is essentially a charitable donation but you can’t write it off on your taxes and if it really is, why can’t all $19.99 go to the charity and not just whatever is left over after the networks and agents take for themselves?

Certainly, it costs money to run a golf match, even just a one-on-one, but a traditional network or cable broadcast could sell ads. There is going to be endless dead time as these guys walk up and down the fairways.

This was once hyped as a fun and different way to promote the sport. Mickelson said as much when this was first announced.

“It’s an opportunity for us to bring golf to the masses in primetime,” Phil said in August, according to ESPN.

Except, this isn’t bringing golf to the masses, it’s asking the most avid fans to cough up a twenty. And it’s not even in primetime – it starts at 3 p.m. ET because Shadow Creek doesn’t want to put lights out on the course.

There will also be no fans, just select VIPs. Some of that is understandable because Shadow Creek doesn’t host PGA events and isn’t built for 15,000 people to show up. Of course, there is no reason this needs to be at Shadow Creek. Since these guys didn’t put up their own money, it isn’t gambling, per se, and thus in need of a Nevada address.

Imagine the 16th hole crowd at TPC Scottsdale during a Tiger vs. Phil one-on-one match. (Getty)
Imagine the 16th hole crowd at TPC Scottsdale during a Tiger vs. Phil one-on-one match. (Getty)

TPC Scottsdale, home of the people’s major, the Waste Management Open, is just a short private jet ride from Vegas. Can you image the crowd’s reaction at the famed 16th as these guys make a wager on closest to the pin?

That’s why this is such an obvious money grab; there is no ethos to the event.

Is it for the fans? Is it for the charities? Or is it just for the sports agencies and television executives who cooked this up?

This isn’t even a new idea. The old “Skins Game” used to invite four golfers and had a somewhat similar concept. It ran from 1983-2008. Both Phil and Tiger were in it, multiple times.

That was never on pay per view.

Not everything is bad with this event.

The players will supposedly engage in side bets, which should be cool. There is an expectation they will be wired up for sound, which could be fun. Thus far the trash talk on social media has been comically bad – probably interns doing the well-vetted typing – but some in-competition trash talk has promise.

HBO’s “24/7” franchise will hype the event with a couple episodes, which could be interesting because that’s a high-quality show and Woods, in particular, is famously guarded about everything. Maybe some real life slips through.

Is any of that worth $19.99 and your day-off afternoon, though?

And what if one guy – most likely Tiger, because Phil has been terrible of late – takes an insurmountable lead early? That’s the risk you take in other pay per views such as boxing where Mike Tyson used to give you a full 30 seconds of action before ending things. Anyone willing to assume such a risk for golf?

In regular golf betting, the losing player presses – or doubles down. Here’s guessing that isn’t happening with $9 million on the line. Conceivably Tiger could start tanking to keep it interesting but that might be akin to point shaving.

It’s all a bit weird, a good idea that got way too complicated, probably because a lot of sports marketing suits are trying to take a big cut of a Thanksgiving left-over pie and calling it charity or something.

You’re probably better off watching college football, putting the money in the Salvation Army bucket and dreaming of the 2019 Masters.

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