BOSTON, Mass. – “It’s on.”
Those were the only two words that Tiger Woods needed to set the Internet on fire this week when he confirmed that the long rumored head-to-head match play showdown against Phil Mickelson finally became official.
“The Match” will be taking place on “Black Friday” November 23 in Las Vegas on a pay-per-view channel for $20. Is this golf exhibition and once-in-a-lifetime showdown between the two golf legends something that golf fans will watch?
The grand prize will be for a whopping $9 million, and Mickelson took the first jab at Woods on his Twitter account saying “I bet you think this is the easiest $9M you will ever make?”
Fans can also get in on the action by placing their own wagers on the outcome. BetDSI Sportsbook released odds for both golfers, favoring Woods by a small margin. The 14-time major winner is currently going off at -170, meaning backers would have to risk $1.70 to return $1 on his victory. Mickelson, who has five majors of his own, is a +140 underdog right now, a line that would net $1.40 for every $1 bet.
While the Woods-Mickelson match had long been anticipated, the pay-per-view aspect of it came as something of a surprise in a sport where every tournament is mostly aired live on either network or cable television.
While boxing, mixed martial arts and pro wrestling have proven to be bankable pay-per-view entities — the recent UFC 227 event cost $64.99 on pay-per-view, and Sunday’s Summer Slam 2018 pay-per-view ran $44.99 — such broadcasts of golf haven’t exactly been a tradition unlike any other.
Jack Nicklaus Productions staged what is believed to be the first and perhaps only such event, in April 1988, when the Golden Bear teamed up with Lee Trevino in a match against Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam in what was dubbed the Desert Scramble.
The winners took home $100,000 each while the losers got $25,000 apiece, and viewers were promised innovations such as mic’d-up players and, somewhat oddly, in-match golf lessons from Nicklaus himself.
It cost $12.95 to watch (the equivalent to about $30 today) and was a complete bomb: The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that only 50,000 homes ponied up to watch it, short of the 65,000 needed to break even.
Jack Craig wrote in the Boston Globe in 1992. “The fact the players were mic’d meant nothing. Almost no one watched and Nicklaus took a bath. Even golf followers found no reason to pay when they could watch the same players free each weekend. There has not been a second PPV golf shtick.”
Turner’s press release specified that the two competitors, as well as their caddies, would be mic’d up for this event. Viewers will be able to listen in on banter from Woods and Mickelson and, perhaps more importantly, hear them discuss side bets on a hole-to-hole basis. The release indicated that impromptu challenges such as long-drive, closest-to-the-pin and other hole-to-hole wagers will likely arise, with the stakes going to the charity of the winner’s choice.
Many sportsbooks will almost certainly offer these same types of bets during the match, helping make the case that this is one of the most intriguing events for gamblers ever.
Mickelson spoke about the uniqueness of this experience (via ESPN):
With only two guys, we should have a total different experience with fans, because we will have smaller galleries that won’t necessarily have ropes that can walk inside the fairway and up near the greens. We’ll have mics on both us and our caddies and you’ll be able to hear all of the banter as well as commentating that will be more interactive. The idea is not just to have this great match but to have this interactive experience so fans can see something that they’ve never seen in televised golf before.”
The iconic Tiger Woods and five-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson are generational talents who have transcended the game of golf and their rivalry continues to be one of the most compelling in sports,” Turner Sports president David Levy said in a press release. “This one-of-a-kind, winner-take-all matchup provides a great opportunity to show fans the benefits of AT&T and Warner Media coming together. For the first time since AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner (now Warner Media), Turner, DirecTV and HBO will present a multi-faceted presentation of the live event and accompanying content across a vast array of platforms.
I’m all in on this “show.” Can’t wait to see two golf legends tangle head-to-head in match play. I’m planning to host a golf watch party on November 23. Who cares if they are both gazillionaires? Hopefully it’s the start of something new in golf and we can watch Rickie Fowler vs Ian Poulter? Or Bubba vs. Bryson? Keegan Bradley vs Miguel Angel Jimenez? Golf needs a change in attitude and presentation of product and this is the start.
Think about this? “The Match” is a pure golf exhibition for entertainment purposes only. Well so is the Ryder Cup. Only difference is the Ryder Cup is free to watch even though the PGA of America throws the US flag over the trophy and earns a “net profit” of $30 million. What’s more shocking is that the players only receive money for their individual charity.
What is amazing to me, astonishing really, is that golf fans are led by golf media to think the Ryder Cup is meaningful! The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are contrived golf exhibitions and fundraisers for the sponsors, just like this match is for Turner Sports.
Who do I make the $25 check payable to?