Tiger, Phil Talk a Good Game on ’24/7′ But Are Approaching ‘The Match’ Differently

Tiger, Phil Talk a Good Game on ’24/7′ But Are Approaching ‘The Match’ Differently article feature image

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson

  • "The Match" between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will take place on Nov. 23 at Shadow Creek Golf Course, and HBO's "24/7" all-access show got the hype started on Tuesday night.
  • While both players said the right things, it's clear they are preparing for the event differently.
  • Tiger is a -210 betting favorite, while Mickelson is currently +175.

If we learned anything during Tuesday night’s HBO Sports 24/7 special on “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, it’s that at least each player is saying all the right things entering next week’s event.

The program served as part-primer for those who haven’t watched much golf over the past two decades and part-promo featuring plenty of good-natured, passive-aggressive trash talk.

Cameras followed Woods at his home course, Medalist Golf Club, as he played a few solo holes and spoke about the match, and they trailed Mickelson on his private jet to Las Vegas, where he teed it up at host venue Shadow Creek.

They each uttered a few good lines, though Mickelson is probably already 2-up in this department, his best offerings coming after a big drive (“That really is a hellacious seed there”) and in response to whether any naughty language might air during the pay-per-view telecast (“Shit yeah. There’s always swearing with Tiger, whether it’s pay-per-view or not”).

The biggest takeaway, though, is that each of them seems to be relishing the opportunity to beat the other one.

In the show’s opening scene, Woods — who’s a -210 betting favorite — answers a question about competing for $9 million while the look plastered across his face can only be described as “bemused.” Even if he isn’t all-in on the match itself, he played the role of interested party perfectly.

Standing on a par-3 at Medalist, he explains that the tee shot would be a perfect spot for a closest-to-the-pin challenge. (“We always call it KP,” he says, despite “closest” clearly beginning with a c. “I don’t know why.”) When he misses on the fringe, he admits that Mickelson would’ve taken that bet just by hitting the green.

From there, he surmises they’d “probably play a do/don’t” on whether Woods could make his next shot from the fringe. “He’d probably give 3-to-1 odds on whether I make it for a hundy.”

The pattern continues, with Woods suggesting the next hole’s tee shot could become a long-drive competition. “He’s 48, I’m 42,” he says. “I can get him on the next hole.”

It’s all the usual stuff golf buddies often bet against each other, just with a slightly higher price tag attached. Tiger shows zero animosity toward Phil, but his eyes aren’t exactly lighting up like he’s talking about playing the final round of the Masters with a five-stroke lead.

Even so, he says all the right things about wanting to win.

“If you’re giving the needle, you’ve got to be able to take it,” Woods explains. “And we both give it all the time.”

Mickelson’s journey to Shadow Creek on the show begins on his plane, where he instantly goes into classic Phil mode.

“I want to go to Vegas, where we have a different altitude than San Diego,” he says. “I want to see how far every iron is flying. It goes a little bit longer in Vegas than it does in San Diego. I want to get every number, every yardage with the irons dialed in and set. I want to see the greens, I want to see the tee boxes, I want to see the shots that I’m going to be hitting off the tee boxes. I’ll probably be hitting multiple tee shots. Prep time for this tournament should allow me to play my absolute best golf in this one match.”

There’s a specific dichotomy between the speech of Mickelson and Woods, who never claimed to be prepping to play his “absolute best golf” in this match. And it’s an interesting wrinkle considering Mickelson is a +175 underdog.

Like Tiger, though, Phil is already thinking about those wagering “challenges.”

“This is a good hole where I’m going to try and bait Tiger into taking a challenge here for closest to the pin,” Mickelson says at one par-3, “because it’s a short iron and it kind of goes right into my strength. … It’s a shot that I’m going to hit close. This is a good chance for me to pick up a little extra side cash.”

Right on cue, he knocks the tee shot tight.

Speaking of bets, Mickelson certainly wasn’t bashful about his predicted result for next week.

“I’ll beat him probably 2 and 1,” he says. “On the par-3 [17th hole] down the hill, over water, I’ll probably make a 2 to win 2 and 1. It’ll be close, though.”

Woods likes the match ending there, too — with a different result, of course.

“I’m envisioning it being over by the time we tee off the 18th,” he states. “He’ll be closed out. That’s how I envision it, that’s what I’ll be prepping for.”

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