Sobel: The Side Action Bets Tiger and Phil Should Make in ‘The Match’

Sobel: The Side Action Bets Tiger and Phil Should Make in ‘The Match’ article feature image

Rob Schumacher, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson

  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have said they will make side bets during their $9 million head-to-head match on Friday, Nov. 23 at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas.
  • Here are a few prop bets for their consideration, including which player can drive longer with his opposite hand.

It was one simple sentence buried in a pre-event press release.

Most of us assumed the details already, or could at least speculate, but this sentence offered confirmation of what we’d been hoping was true.

Throughout the months-long discussions about the upcoming Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match, the dissenters scoffed at the idea of two professional golfers competing in a match with little importance, while the supporters rightly suggested that there would be more to the competition than just 18 holes of match play format.

Finally, that one sentence told us everything we needed to know.

“Both Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side challenges against one another during the live competition.”

Almost instantaneously, you could see those dissenters purse their lips and hear them collectively whisper to themselves, “Ohhhhh…” as if they’d just realized this might not be some ordinary head-to-head match.

My guess is that, as the press release suggested, these bets will be relegated to the usual side action fun we’ve all had in our Sunday morning foursome. We’ve all wagered five bucks that a playing partner couldn’t get up and down from an inextricable greenside lie, or that heavy-handed opponent couldn’t suddenly roll in a 12-footer.

Well, those are the types of bets that Tiger and Phil will be making — only they’ll be for much larger amounts than $5 and, from what I’ve heard, this side action will all go toward the players’ charitable foundations.

I don’t think the bets will get too crazy … but I hope I’m wrong.

In fact, here are some fun wagers that I’m really, really hoping they’ll entertain during the course of the match.

The Driver Flip

In the initial promotional campaign for this match, the graphic of Tiger showed him swinging a left-handed driver. Well, the organizers could chalk this up as human error from the design team, or they could insist this was a little Easter Egg for everyone searching for clues as to what we might see.

That’s right: Once they get at least a few holes into the match, I want to see Tiger grab Phil’s lefty driver and Phil grab Tiger’s righty driver, then let them take part in an impromptu long-drive contest.

Of course, as any know-it-all golf fan will gladly remind you, Phil is actually a natural right-hander, who only plays lefty because he grew up mirroring his father’s swing in the family’s garage. That should give him an advantage in this bet, but it almost doesn’t matter. For pure entertainment value, you know you want this one to happen.

The bet: Mickelson (-180)

The Mad Dash

Let’s face it: Tiger fancies himself an athlete who just happens to play golf for a living. While he might own a better athletic physique than his opponent, don’t write off Phil as some uncoordinated slouch.

Rumor has it that Phil can spin a spiral pretty nicely on the touch football field. We know he can play some ping-pong. And he’s even become a martial arts expert, evidenced (sort of) by his kick of a bottle off Zach Johnson’s head during the Ryder Cup post-game festivities.

Even so, it’s tough to believe Phil is much of a runner — which is why I’d love to see him engage Tiger in a 100-yard dash from a fairway to the green. In fact, knowing how much Phil analyzes such bets, I’m guessing he could talk Tiger into giving him a head start — and I’m similarly guessing Phil would know the exact yardage necessary to beat him.

Still, Tiger hasn’t gone through Navy SEALs training to lose a footrace to some guy in a long-sleeved button-down.

The bet: Tiger (-165)

The Backwards Flop

OK, that last bet might have been a little weighted in Tiger’s favor, so let’s tip the scales back to Phil for this one.

We’ve all seen him place his golf ball on an upslope, open up his club face and swing hard enough to fly it behind him, an act which appears as if it defies all laws of physics.

Well, I don’t think he’s the only one who’s got that shot in his bag. I’d love to see Phil offer a little closest-to-the-pin while each player faces in the opposite direction, like golf’s version of a game of HORSE where one player attempts a half-court shot while facing the other hoop.

The bet: Phil (-115)

The Ball Bounce

Remember that old commercial where Tiger casually bounced a golf ball on his club face for the duration before hitting it into the sky just before the 30-second spot was completed? Here’s a fun little fact to wow your non-golfing friends: Every kid on the range at your local mini-tour event can do the exact same thing.

But who can do it the best? That question needs to be answered.

There are a few ways to go here. Tiger and Phil could either bounce a ball on their wedges until one of them eventually loses concentration and lets it fall to the ground. Or they could add a little athleticism to the competition, bouncing these balls while also “racing” down the fairway, with the player who gets the furthest without losing his ball declared the winner.

The bet: Tiger (Even)

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