Phil Mickelson Wins ‘Match’ in 22 Holes – Now We Reconsider the Idea
The match I did not watch appears to have come out as an interesting event after all. I was with Rory McIlroy in the belief that to pair Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a grand match might have been a great idea a decade or so ago, but not now. It was certainly no Palmer versus Nicklaus, or so we thought. Both are former champions at various increments “over the hill.” Tiger has traveled through the long, dark valley of despair, while Mickelson just isn’t the young star he once was. Those of us who clung to that fact were at least in part, very wrong. On the 22nd hole at Shadow Creek, after the two champions tied through 18, it was decided on the 22nd hole. On that 90ish yard par 3, Tiger put it seven away, Mickelson 4, making the putt while Tiger missed -and that was the end of “The 9 Million Dollar March.”
Here is where I was before the event began. I couldn’t generate the enthusiasm necessary to pay $20 to go watch two former greats play an 18-hole match. It wasn’t just the timing of the age. I would have paid that amount to go see Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, but not Tiger and Phil. They have never particularly liked each other, and duels for bragging rights and settlements of grudges don’t interest me much. A tremendous amount of money was flying about this match, most of it corporate, a lot of it going through the hub of Vegas. That didn’t interest me, either, because that ocean of money is not relevant to millions of us who don’t make that sort of money to throw around. They thought I would enjoy having them wave it in our faces. The two rivals made all sorts of personal bets from drive length on the first hold to birdieing this or that. These various private bets went into the hundreds of thousands, which further eroded my interest, and upped my resentment at the ballyhoo. As for the format, I didn’t believe that Woods and Mickelson could carry this event. My idea was to go with a foursome of younger and older, Tiger and Spieth, Mickelson and Molinari, or something like that. However, in the match, they both played well enough to disprove that idea, including an excellent final cliff hanger. With a good portion of the money going to organizations like Children of the 58 and Birdies for the Brave, the chip on my shoulder was at least somewhat alleviated.
Before the match began, I read an article designed to tell me why I should pay to watch, but it ended up falling short on its promise. First among the reasons was that Tiger is actually a big draw, and that “he’s back.” Actually, we ‘think’ he’s back, but we’re not entirely sure. He has won again, and it looks good, but I’m not ready to pencil him in for the Grand Slam next year. The second attraction was the mutual dislike and ensuing smack talk. Sorry, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t enjoy that. I enjoy golf and the better urges it brings out. Then it came down to my chance to gamble, but they couldn’t have been talking about me. Besides, I’ve lived in Las Vegas. I have watched a Sheik roll the dice on half a million, and more insanity than that- no, thank you. How about the shot in the arm that this match gives the sport? Again, I don’t feel included in that, and don’t wish to become alienated from or priced out of the game. If I scored Masters tickets, I’d be in Seventh Heaven, but to see Woods and Mickelson in a private brawl? I just wouldn’t feel like I belonged in someone else’s game. The future of golf is not to be found in bull moose matches, at least not for everyone, and the future of the corporate bank book might do well, but not mine.
So, I’m only in a slightly more willing place to enjoy this match than I was before. The only reason for advancing at all is that the underdog dug deep and came out with more game than I thought he had left. I wish them both well, but I probably won’t cross the street to see another one.