2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Off and Running
Harry How/Getty Images for The Match
Woods gets off to the better start.
At the 1962 U.S. Open, a couple of young pros named Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were tied after 72 holes of regulation, meaning they’d play against each other in an 18-hole playoff at Oakmont Country Club that Monday.
The local legend made an offer to his friend.
“Normally in a playoff, it was tradition in the U.S. Open that the gate went to the winning player,” Nicklaus told SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio years later. “Arnold asked me, ‘Do you want to split the gate regardless of what happens in the match?’ I said, ‘Let it go to the winner.’ I figure he deserved it. We got that huge gate, in addition to the prize money. It was $1,400.”
This bet between Tiger and Phil might be the very opposite of that one.
Instead of two players trying to help each other out by potentially splitting some of the winnings, one of these guys could potentially end this day $3.31 million richer, considering the first-place prize is $2.07 million and second place is a mere $1.24 million.
You’re pretty sure any CBS announcer who dared describe the gallery for this final pairing as “mayhem” would be summarily removed from his post, but that’s exactly what it is – and it only gets crazier on the first hole.
With 142 yards into the green with the pin middle-left, Woods hits a towering wedge that takes one hop and disappears into the cup. An opening eagle. Spectators don’t know what to do with themselves. Some hug each other, some high-five. Some throw their beers straight into the air; no cares about where they land. And some just begin screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s not even, “YAAAAYYYY!!!” or “WOOOOO!!!” … it’s more like, “ARGHJLKMX!!!”
Just absolute bedlam.
For his part, Woods pumps his fist, high-fives caddie Joe LaCava – making better connection than he did with Steve Williams after his 16th hole chip-in back in 2005 – and then just stands there, taking it all in.
On the par-5 second, Woods lands his second shot on the front fringe and nearly holes it from there for the utterly improbable eagle-eagle start. Instead, he settles for birdie and the lead.
That’s right – Tiger has now leapfrogged Mickelson on the board. And he doesn’t seem ready to hand back the lead anytime soon.
On the 10th tee, Woods finds himself with a two-stroke lead. He’s barely said a word to Mickelson since accepting that bet, but he can’t help himself here.
“What do they pay for second place this week anyway?” he asks.
Mickelson shoots him a glare but says nothing. He knows this isn’t going his way right now.