2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Turned Down
Harry How/Getty Images for The Match
It doesn’t happen. One of them refuses.
There is no doubt that Mickelson was more into the first edition of “The Match” than his counterpart — and those aforementioned photos only serve as part of the proof. Phil talked up the event more than Tiger. He practiced for it more than Tiger. And he genuinely just seemed more excited about the entire thing than Tiger.
So it should come as little surprise that, if only one of them were going to quash it, it would be Tiger.
Here’s how you hear it went down, courtesy of a fellow spectator who says he’s friends with a guy who knows another guy who was pressed right up against the ropes and witnessed the entire thing:
Phil: “So, you wanna do this thing?”
Phil: “Smaller bet? Enough to keep you interested, but not enough to make you uncomfortable?”
Phil: “You’re pretty serious today, huh?”
Don’t get the wrong impression: Just because Woods appears hyper-focused in his chase for history doesn’t mean that Mickelson is playing around. He knows exactly what he’s doing — he’s trying to throw Tiger off his game.
Their betting history isn’t a lengthy one. Back in 1998, during a practice round for what was then called the Nissan Open, played that year at TPC Valencia, the two of them engaged in a friendly match. Mickelson won that day, taking $500 off Woods, and then he made a photocopy of the bills, put smiley faces on it and wrote, “Just wanted you to know Benji and his friends are very happy in their new home,” and then he taped it to Woods’ locker for the week.
That was their last practice round together for 20 years, until two years ago they reprised their 2004 Ryder Cup pairing by playing a Tuesday match here at Augusta National against Fred Couples and Thomas Pieters. They won that day — a likely promotional magnet for “The Match” later that year — but there remains no public account of Phil ever handing money to Tiger for a lost wager.
Despite the trash talk, there won’t be one today, either.
Tiger has more at stake than Phil’s money — they both do, obviously — and his one-word responses to the proposal only reinforce how locked in he is today.
You watch him grab for his driver on the tee box, knowing that the bunker on the right side of the fairway has swallowed up its fair share of his opening drives over the years. When he swings, there appears no effect of the four back surgeries that once looked like they’d end his career, nor the lingering soreness which has kept him from competing in a single tournament over the past few months.
No, this looks just like the Tiger we’ve come to know — and as such, you shouldn’t be surprised to see where his drive lands.