Anyone who has stood over a putt and prayed to the Golf Gods for a favorable roll quickly, or at least eventually, comes to the realization that there is no divine intervention in the sport. The near misses outpace the miracle makes many items over.
Or, well, perhaps there is a Golf God because he or she did all they could do trying to spare us all from the hell that wasn’t necessarily Friday’s pay per view not-extravaganza, “The Match: Tiger vs. Phil,” but the circles of hell that would have followed had it gone off as an unqualified success – pay-per-viewing every event they possibly can.
“You know America, you’re watching some really crappy golf,” Charles Barkley said, which was notable since he was an actual commentator on the broadcast.
Since this was the first interesting thing to happen in about a half an hour of the match, and Barkley then overdid it by joking he could beat either Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, we were treated to about three additional holes of forced chuckles about how unlikely that would be.
There were times this got so dull you looked forward to the next Capital One advertisement to break the monotony. Yes, a commercial in the middle of a Pay Per View. Lots of them. But wait, there’s more – with The Match, there was always more.
What if I told you, you could not just watch Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson appear in a Capital One commercial but then have Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson sit behind a desk and break down what it was like to film the Capital One commercial? Is that something you might be interested in?
(SPOILER: both men revealed that they enjoy being paid handsomely to film commercials for Capital One.)
This wasn’t all bad but it had some very painful moments, and not just for the engineers who couldn’t make the web stream work online. Twitter lit up with paid customers complaining they couldn’t watch what they’d paid for. The technical difficulties were so bad, Bleacher Report began offering it up for free, which certainly complicates the fact that some people had already paid for it through the website and many others got in via cable television.
Since some people got it free, then everyone who paid should get a refund to whatever is in their wallet.
It’s not that there wasn’t some value to the purchase. You got to listen to Mickelson huff, puff and wheeze while climbing inclines. To even it out, Tiger spent most of the day grunting into the mic in frustration. “Ugh, uh, I thought that shot would be good.” Yeah, well, it wasn’t.
This was a decent idea until a few things happened. First, Tiger and Phil didn’t put up their own money, which meant the $9 million winner-take-all pot had to come from somewhere. As such, the suits that invented this thing then decided to pass it along to golf fans, $20 a pop.
Tiger and Phil have a combined net worth of over a billion. You are worth less. It felt like going to a casino and rooting for the dealer.
This would have felt a lot better if it was just on free, or at least cable, television, a chance to showcase the sport to the masses in a different manner. For years this was called the Skins Game. Now it was like an MBA thesis gone bad. It was riveting only to fans of product placements.
Not surprisingly, these two played with all the intensity of two guys who literally don’t need $9 million. It was just a couple of old rich guys hacking around a beautiful course blowing money they don’t need. In other words, most regular Tuesday games at Riviera.
There were a few side bets that should have been fun, but this event was so over-marketed and over-sold that it was nearly impossible to believe either was laying their own money on the line. Someone else was going to pick up the closest-to-the-pin bets. On the back nine and the playoff – yes, it went 22 holes – no one bet anything. It was like they were over budget or all the other bets were pre-planned.
Even then, some that were put out there were just absurd. At one point they were going to bet $100,000 if either could eagle a hole. Then Phil said they should “add another zero,” which sounds cool except neither came close and never were going to come close.
It had all the drama of another Sam & Chuck on the golf course commercial – “Did you ever wonder why they call it a birdie? Birds don’t even have hands. How would they hold a club?”
There was a lot of pre-match hype about how both men would be wired for sound and the witty banter between them would be riveting and hysterical. It wasn’t. Worse, once they reached the back nine Tiger decided he wanted to win, he pretty much stopped talking to Phil altogether and started focusing on shots. Mickelson apparently wasn’t great company.
“I’m trying to be more talkative but I’m just not,” Phil said.
Again, this wasn’t all bad.
The easiest thing in the world to do was not watch, so it’s not like innocent people were harmed in its making. Shadow Creek looks as incredible as has been rumored. It’s still golf. Tiger’s chip in on No. 17 was great. Shane Bacon was a standout on the broadcast crew; he seemed capable of talking to Phil and Tiger as just a guy casually coming up and chatting. Plus, kudos to Ernie Johnson for trying to hide the disappointment in his voice as he worked to make a lag putt sound like Jack on the 17th of Augusta.
Tiger vs. Phil.
Chip in under pressure.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) November 24, 2018
And the social media jokes were good. The broadcast should have used those rather than random celebrities who “conveniently” tweeted great praise for the event and even used the #TheMatch hashtag. A cynic would suggest that those were a set-up and a cross-promotional opportunity, but if you can’t trust the editorial ethics of “The Match”, what is left of America?
Anyway, Justin Verlander breathlessly praising the event is one thing. It’s another when Twitter user Summers37206 like this:
— summers37206 (@summers37206) November 23, 2018
The PPV element, though, changed the spirit of it. The audience was bitter. They’d paid, or paid when they shouldn’t have, or kept having the technology crash on them.
And then the selling of everything was just relentless and off-putting, like when rides at Disney World empty out into a store so your kid can beg to spend even more money. Nothing seemed real, which may have been appropriate since they were playing golf on a lush course in the middle of the desert.
And Phil and Tiger just aren’t funny. They enjoy what could be called boss humor – everyone laughs at what they say not because they are funny, but because they are Tiger and Phil and you want them to be funny or have to pretend they are funny. Then they think they are funny.
It’s like when Bill Belichick calls Facebook “Facemask” for the 1,746th time and everyone at the news conference laughs. It’s a forgiving audience. There are starving stand-ups in L.A. breaking in new material to crickets who hang themselves every time that happens.
Mainly, this was a collection of missed putts and safe plays. Even with hundreds of thousands on the line in side bets … they still left putts short.
At one-point Phil even discussed watching college football and it reminded everyone to click over.
In the end, it looked like Tiger would win on the 19th hole even after Phil hit into a bunker. But then Tiger missed a putt.
“Where we going now?” Woods asked.
To a 93-yard par 3 that was the “20thHole”, which was a chip shot from a practice green to the 18th. Basically, whoever hit into the clown’s mouth won. The Moose Mountain Adventure Mini-Golf Course inside the Mall of America has a better finishing hole. The Road Hole it was not.
They had to play it a few times to finally get a winner. The first two times Tiger never hit the green. Phil never made a putt. Finally, Tiger was agonizing over a 6-foot putt he needed to drain to push. If he missed, he would lose the $9 million … by bogeying a par 3, 93-yard hole. Think about that for a second.
Phil felt bad and conceded the putt. He saved Tiger the ultimate humiliation. It was a pity party.
Phil won it the next time through after Tiger missed a routine putt.
So, congrats Phil on the $9 million.
You owe me 20 bucks.
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