The 15-years-overdue heads-up golf match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson has mostly been a source of ridicule since announced as a pay-per-view event for the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Leadup to the match has provided dad-level trash talk and questions as to why the two aren’t gambling their own money, which would create the potential for actual intrigue.
Instead, the $9 million winner-take-all purse will come from sponsors and people willing to spend their $19.99 and day off from work watching a pair of past-their-prime golfers walk a Las Vegas course with intermittent golf shots sprinkled in.
Organizers apparently got the memo that the exhibition is toothless with no real gambling stakes involved, prompting this truly cringeworthy interaction between the two in a Tuesday promotional event.
“I’m willing to risk $100,000 that says I birdie the first hole,” Mickelson prompted Woods to a chorus of obligatory chuckles from those attending the media conference. “So that’s how good I feel heading into this match. You don’t have to take it. You don’t have to take it at all.”
“So you think you can make birdie on the first hole?” Woods responded.
“I know I’m going to make birdie on the first hole,” Mickelson said.
“Double it,” Woods said as the guffaws in the crowd transitioned to oohs and ahhs.
“Do you see how I baited him like that?” Mickelson retorted.
So yeah. These guys are golf greats. And terrible actors.
Nobody’s buying the forced tension and awkward barbs tossed around here. There was a time when there was some genuine hostility between the two as Mickelson proved to be closest thing to a true rival to Tiger in his prime.
But that tension has appeared to fade with age and the pair’s golf games, leaving us with this facsimile of a grudge match with watered-down stakes.
A $200,000 bet is nothing to these multimillionaires. A $9 million bet would do little to make either of them sweat, but it would at least provide a genuine hook to the match.
The sell, of course, is that that if they’re betting $200,000 on the first hole, what’s to come on the next 17?
And maybe the competitive instincts and notorious gambler in each of them will take over on the course to provide some real drama.
But until we see it, we’re not buying it. And that’s trouble for a pay-per-view event.
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