Tiger vs. Phil: Six Improvements to Make For the Next Match

Tiger vs. Phil: Six Improvements to Make For the Next Match article feature image

John David Mercer, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods

  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will play a heads-up match for $9 million on Friday, Nov. 23 in Las Vegas.
  • While some of the criticism is misplaced, Jason Sobel offers six suggestions to make "The Match" more intriguing.

Critics who are bemoaning “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as “unimportant” or “meaningless” are missing the point.

It’s not a major championship. It’s not some determination of who’s the better player. It’s just a few hours of entertainment on an otherwise gloomy Friday afternoon around much of the country.

And yet, so many golf fans seem offended by the fact that their day will be interrupted by having to tweet incessantly about ignoring a match that they continually point out doesn’t really matter for anything.

Sorry, guys. Not everything has to be the ultimate in competition.

Do these same people only eat at five-star restaurants? Do they only watch movies nominated for Best Picture? Do they only date Instagram models?

Hey, sometimes it’s fun to grab a burger from a chain restaurant and watch a tepid comedy with a solid 6.5.

I’ve been a proponent of the Tiger-Phil match for the simple reason that it beats the alternative options on a Black Friday known more for egregious shopping and sleeping off turkey hangovers.

I will absolutely admit, though, that many aspects of this match have fallen flat in the eyes of the public.

It’s as if organizers failed to gauge the temperature in the room, assuming they could announce the event and people would come flocking toward it, waving fistfuls of greenbacks in their direction.

Instead, public sentiment has veered away from support with each announcement.

This didn’t have to be difficult. With a few easy fixes, here’s how they could’ve altered the perception of this match.

Put up (some of) their own money

This has been the most common criticism of the match. The public seems to believe that Tiger and Phil should be playing for their own money, despite the fact that multiple sponsors are willing to bankroll them.

I get it. They each have a gazillion dollars and fishing for more of it feels greedy. Even so, it’s pretty hypocritical for people to insist on them playing for their own money.

Think of it this way: If you go to the local muni and play a team best-ball match, would you still post your own 20 bucks if your partner previously offered to put up the cash? Sure, there’s something to be said for this as a morality play, but I don’t work for free, you don’t work for free and pro golfers shouldn’t be expected to work for free.

Besides, as I’ve been saying from Day 1, whichever player lost his own money in this match would’ve simply added another line of business expenses to his 1099 form next April and recouped the losses. It’s not like either guy is going to the ATM to take out $9 million and hand it to the winner.

All of that said, this again missed the mark on public perception. Even if it didn’t matter, even if it wasn’t for the full pot, the players should’ve put up some of their own money in the initial bet, just to drum up more interest.

Keep it on free TV

Again, as I’ve written previously, paying $20 for four hours of entertainment on what’s literally the greediest shopping day of the year is a bargain. I’d pay twice that number to NOT go into a mall that day.

But it’s clearly not sitting well with the public.

Now, I think there are a lot of people out there who have claimed for months that they won’t watch this match, then next Friday will come … and it’ll be cold outside … and they won’t want to shop anymore … and family will be around … and nobody will want to watch Oregon-Oregon State, the only decent football game scheduled simultaneously … and all of a sudden, these people who insisted they wouldn’t pay for it are going to pay for it.

I know the broadcast was shopped around to network and cable outlets with no luck before it became a pay-per-view event, so this wasn’t the first and only option.

The problem, though, is that this certainly won’t be a one-off. There will be other head-to-head contests, maybe with Tiger and Phil teaming up in the future.

Organizers needed to chum the waters in this instance. They needed to give the public a taste of what they’ll be missing next time if they don’t pay for it.

Had they done that, people would rationalize spending more money on these contests over the long term.

Call it the Augusta National maneuver: Give the people $2 beers and $1 sandwiches all day, then they’ll be more inclined to buy a few extra $100 golf shirts before they leave. The same strategy could’ve worked perfectly here.

Open it up to young fans

There will be no spectators allowed on the golf course during competition. No tickets will be sold, no fans will be yelling “Baba-booey!” in any backswings.

That could make for a more intimate setting – and it’ll be nice to watch 18 holes without hearing the mashed potatoes screaming.

It’ll also cut down on the need for things like parking and gates, which in turn cuts down on the necessity for volunteers. The logistical picture becomes much clearer when these aspects are eliminated.

But again, this is about turning around public perception.

There’s a First Tee chapter in Southern Nevada. They should’ve invited as many golf-crazy little kids as they could find, then let ‘em roam in the fairways behind the action, like those old U.S. Open clips of fans following Bobby Jones.

I think the public could get over the fact that tickets weren’t sold if they encouraged young golfers to watch – and meet – Tiger and Phil for free.

Hey, maybe it’s not too late.

Here’s hoping this plan is already in action – or maybe someday involved might read this and share the idea.

Do more for charity

From what I’ve heard, each side bet between the players will be put toward a charitable contribution. For instance, if Tiger is standing over a 12-foot birdie putt, Phil might say, “I think you’re going to miss, but if you make it I’ll give $100,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation.”

That’s nice – and my guess is that more than a little of the overall rake will wind up in the players’ individual charitable foundations anyway.

Again, though, this is about getting ahead with the message instead of falling behind.

When this event was first announced, it should’ve been announced with massive charitable endeavors attached to the festivities. It’s about getting the people on their side, instead of this being peppered with greed.

I’ve never been a fan of telling people what to do with their money – especially insanely wealthy people who already donate more than we even know about to charity.

Making that announcement earlier, though, would’ve helped the perception as we move closer to the event.

Give us an undercard

Every anticipated PPV title fight consists of an undercard. You might be more focused on the chips and dip at that point in the proceedings than two guys you’ve never heard of scrapping with each other, but at least you feel like you’re getting more bang for your buck.

I wish there was some kind of undercard for this match, something that started an hour ahead of time, just so we could see some of the holes before Tiger and Phil arrived, which would also give us some live action during the downtimes.

I’m not even talking about a Dustin Johnson vs. Brooks Koepka type of match.

It was announced Thursday that both Charles Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson will be hosting “The Pre-Match Show” prior to the telecast.

I’m sure they’ll be fine on that, but their presence would be better served in a match ahead of the match, with each of ‘em ponying up for similar side bets to Tiger and Phil during the round.

Speaking of Sir Charles…

A more compelling announcing team

It was also announced Thursday that the commentators for the match will be Ernie Johnson on play-by-play, Darren Clarke and Peter Jacobsen as analysts, and Shane Bacon and Natalie Gulbis as reporters. All are fine people who will bring professionalism to their roles.

But … nobody is tuning into the broadcast specifically to listen to these voices.

They’ve already got Barkley there? Gimme as much Charles as possible during the match. I want him walking alongside Tiger and Phil, trash-talking them, betting with them, having fun with them.

As I wrote in the beginning of this piece, the match is about entertainment more than importance. The final product needs to mirror that notion, rather than a makeshift crew that resembles every other broadcast team, every other week.

In fact, the last thing I want to hear are golf commentators. I want comedians, entertainers, celebrities and athletes talking to the viewers in real-time, as if they’re all watching at home on the couch together.

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