Tiger vs. Phil II Would Provide Relief, But Significant Hurdles Remain
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Tiger Woods (front) and Phil Mickelson during The Match: Tiger vs Phil at Shadow Creek Golf Course in 2018.
In a world without sports, one in which we’re forced to stare out the window longingly and sift through social media for any signs of life, it’s fascinating how three little words can offer such a major impact toward optimism.
In the case of a reprisal of “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, these were the words: “Working on it.”
That reply, tweeted by Mickelson on Monday in response to a question about a rematch, sent fans into a tizzy at the mere mention of a competitive event potentially taking place at some point.
The details — an amalgamation of sourced reports, educated guesses and frivolous innuendo — remain sketchy. But where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Golf.com reported that it would take place in Florida, before any major sports league returns and would raise money for COVID-19-related charities. CNBC suggested it could happen as soon as next month. ESPN.com raised a point about the PGA TOUR needing to sign off, which hasn’t yet been discussed.
And they all mentioned the inclusion of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as potential teammates for the golfers, offering a new dynamic to the proceedings from a year-and-a-half ago, which admittedly fell short of expectations.
Those prospects alone are enough to revive a quarantined nation from its Netflix slumber and provide some encouragement that at least one sports entertainment vehicle could be live sooner rather than later.
Let’s first start with the positives of this possibility. Foremost among them — yes, even before “having something new to watch on TV” — would be the charitable efforts built around this. When Woods and Mickelson squared off on Thanksgiving weekend in 2018, it transpired as a $9 million, winner-take-all money-grab, a rich-get-richer scheme that was won by the lefthander.
Even then, it could’ve used a charitable component to assuage any sense of gluttony, but in today’s world it absolutely needs to be established as a fundraiser first, with all monetary payouts in the form of donations. That includes side action, a highly anticipated yet eventually disappointing aspect of the original version of this match, which could potentially be more creative in real-time if all of the wagers were earmarked for charity.
Now we’ll get to the part about providing a sliver of normalcy in a society that is so desperately yearning for it in the form of a sporting event — any sporting event. When marble racing on YouTube and in-home pushup contests provide the full range of athletic competition for fans, any mention of an actual professional athlete-fueled endeavor is reason for optimism.
Maybe “The Match II” will serve as the first light at the end of the tunnel, an initial rallying point of sports once again providing some sense of uniformity to our lives. Or maybe it’ll just be something decent to watch for four hours, taking our minds off the real news. Those are varying degrees of comfort, though neither would be rejected.
Let’s not become too hopeful about this possibility, however, without also understanding the potential pratfalls.
The first is the PGA TOUR’s inclusion on such an event. When they played the first edition of this match, Woods and Mickelson not only needed the PGA TOUR’s blessing, but because they are members, it became a sanctioned event. If you look at their records on the TOUR’s own website, it includes that competition as an unofficial tournament — not unlike late-year events such as the QBE Shootout or Hero World Challenge.
Would the TOUR want two of its superstars to tee it up prior to any official event? Would executives want to include other players, too? Would they want a hand in certain aspects like infrastructure and TV contracts? All of these questions seemingly haven’t yet been addressed.
Then there’s the fact that they’re trying to hold a competitive sporting event while also social distancing. Even if the issue is more optics than vulnerability, there are more hurdles than simply keeping the four participants at least six feet away from each other. Even without on-course spectators, there would ostensibly be tournament staff, a television crew and others on hand, only increasing any potential risk.
And the last question revolves around Woods himself. When last we saw Tiger, he was finishing dead-last of all those who made the cut at the Genesis Invitational. That was a month-and-a-half ago. Since then, he skipped obvious appearances at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship, his agent chalking it up publicly to lingering back soreness, though no additional details were provided. If we are to believe that another match could happen somewhat soon, then we’d similarly have to believe that Woods is healthy enough physically to start competing again.
If they can pull it off, if “The Match II” happens as speculated, with Tiger and Phil including Brady and Manning in their game, raising money for charity and providing a sense of sporting normalcy for a society in desperate need of some, this is a great idea and worthy of implementation. There are, though, plenty of impediments which suggest this isn’t the done deal some would like to believe.
But hey, the good news is, as Mickelson tweeted, they’re “working on it.”