There are so many things to take issue with over Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson’s upcoming match – imaginatively entitled ‘The Match’ – that it’s hard to know where to start.
I could start by taking issue with the winner-takes-all $9m prize fund. At a stroke, one of the two highest-earning players in the history of the PGA Tour (combined career prize money: $203,758,937) will trouser almost four times what the highest-earning player, Sung Hyun Park, made on the LPGA in 2017. For what it’s worth, the total prize fund on the Ladies European Tour this year is just under $14.5m. There’s something about two of the world’s wealthiest sportsmen playing an 18-hole exhibition, with $9m on the line, and with so far nothing to suggest that the money will go anywhere other than into the winner’s bank account, that doesn’t sit quite right with me.
I could start by taking issue with where it’s being played. Think of all the great golf destinations in the world. Las Vegas ain’t one of them. It’s perhaps a tad idealistic but imagine how much more compelling this head-to-head might have been had it been contested at, say, Pebble Beach or in St Andrews.
I could start by taking issue with when it’s being played. Mickelson has described it as “an opportunity for us to bring golf to the masses in prime time during a period where we don’t have much going on in the world of golf.” Not much going on?! The World Cup of Golf – once one of the most prestigious events in the game – is taking place the same weekend in Australia. Rather than indulge one another, couldn’t Mickelson and Woods have lent their support to this far more worthy event? Or is a $7m prize fund not worth flying to Oz for?
I could start by taking issue with the fact that there are reportedly no public tickets for the match, with only a handful of VIPs and sponsors getting to watch it in person. That’s really how to “bring golf to the masses”…
I could start by taking issue with the fact that it will only be available to watch on TV via a pay-per-view channel. For contention, see same above point re. how to “bring golf to the masses”.
I could start by taking issue with the missed opportunity to have an ‘undercard’, where younger players could have been given an immense platform to showcase their talents. Why couldn’t there have been a warm-up match between two of the brightest up-and-coming talents from Woods and Mickelson's management companies, for example, or the two top golfers from their alma maters (Stanford and Arizona State University)?
I could start by taking issue with the fact that this event is a good 15 years too late. Tiger and Phil were at their most compelling when people viewed them as legitimate, crossed-swords rivals. They are far less interesting as friends. Nobody wants to watch Batman and The Joker play Scrabble.
I could take start by taking issue with the fact that, on current form, it's really not much of a match at all. The Ryder Cup aside, Tiger is playing great; Phil is not. It could ultimately be the biggest mismatch between man and tiger in Vegas since Siegfried & Roy's last show.
I could start by taking issue with so many different things, so I won’t bother. Instead, I’ll just say what I feel.
The whole thing stinks.
It feels mucky. It feels icky. It feels like it's on me.
It feels like an exploitative, out-of-touch cash-grab, an unapologetic publicity stunt that has missed many golden opportunities to do good for the game.
I hope that there is at least some kind of ‘to be announced’ benevolent agenda behind this fairway-set pantomime but, so far, I’m underwhelmed, unimpressed and, above all, disappointed.
Tiger vs Phil - your thoughts
Do you agree with Michael McEwan's take on 'The Match'? Or do you think it's shaping up to be a great event? Will you be paying to watch? Leave all your thoughts in our Comments section below.