A Match Made in Heaven, Played in Sin City

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson go one-on-one in Las Vegas

By Christine Loomis

It’s being billed as historic, the ultimate showdown, the match of the century.  While hype around the 18-hole, head-to-head duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas will certainly increase to epic proportions up until the moment they tee off, the truth is this is one event that will likely live up to the hyperbolic spin surrounding it. 

Las Vegas oddsmakers are already having a field day. Naturally, you can bet on who will win, with Woods currently the favorite. But rumor has it you’ll also be able to bet on what color shirts the two will wear (currently white for Mickelson and any color other than red, white or black for Woods), and other minutia tied to the event. 

The rivalry between Woods and Mickelson, who have a combined 122 PGA Tour wins and 19 Majors between them, has not always been friendly. Yet in recent years they seem to have mellowed at least enough to see the value of a relationship that will take them to a $9 million, winner-takes-all match seen around the world. 

Not that either player needs the money. On the 2018 Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list of the world’s highest-paid entertainers, Woods came in at No. 66 with $43.3 million for the year, and Mickelson at No. 74 with $41.3 million. 

But it’s not all about the money, at least for them. “The iconic Tiger Woods and five-time Major champion Phil Mickelson are generational talents who have transcended the game of golf and their rivalry continues to be one of the most compelling in the history of sports,” said David Levy, President of Turner, in a statement confirming the long-rumored event. 

“This one-of-a-kind, winner-take-all matchup provides a great opportunity to harness the assets within the AT&T and WarnerMedia portfolio.  For the first time since AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia), Turner, DirecTV and HBO will come together to present a multi-faceted presentation of the live event and accompanying content across a vast array of platforms.”

The match, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 23, will be hosted by MGM Resorts and held at Shadow Creek Golf Course, a Tom Fazio design in North Las Vegas. Live pay-per-view coverage of the event will be distributed through Turner’s B/R Live, the broadcast company’s new premium live sports streaming service, and AT&T’s Direct TV, as well as other on-demand platforms. Other parts of the goliath media empire will provide coverage of events leading up to the event, international access, behind-the-scenes coverage and more. Suffice it to say, there will not be a moment of this match before, during or after that fans will not be party to—for a price. 

The action started in earnest in August when the PGA and Warner confirmed the match, and Tiger made it a certainty with just two words sent out via Twitter: “It’s on.” 

Mickelson was quick to come back with a (good-natured) tweet: “I bet you think this is the easiest $9 million you will ever make,” complete with an emoji laughing so hard it’s crying. 

Banter between the two pros will no doubt ramp up in the coming weeks, with the odds going back and forth on various aspects of the match. While Woods currently has the edge according to oddsmakers, it’s not a given that he will win, even though his recent forays ever closer to the top of the leaderboard have thrilled fans. 

He placed T6 at the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland, his first top 10 at a Major since 2013, and followed that with a thrilling Sunday run at Bellerive in the PGA Championship that got him to No. 2.  In the process, he shot the lowest ever final-round score of his career, a 64—and that after not driving a single fairway on the front nine.  

For his part, Mickelson ended the longest draught of his career back in March, winning the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec, just outside Mexico City. 

While Mickelson and Woods are no longer at the pinnacle of their careers, it’s hard to find two players who have a larger fan base or create more excitement on the golf course. They may never go head-to-head again on a PGA Major Sunday, but they’re uniquely suited for a Las Vegas mega match-play event.

Best of all, perhaps, charities will benefit as well. As part of the deal, Woods and Mickelson will wear mics during play, all the better for fans to hear the ongoing rivalry and hole-by-hole side wagers the two will make, such as closest to the pin and longest drive. That money won will go to the winner’s charity of choice. 

As if the rumor mill hasn’t been going full tilt for months already, rumor also has it this is just the first of multiple one-on-one golf mega matches that Woods and Mickelson will produce. It seems their relationship has grown closer than most of us ever knew. 

Christine Loomis is a staff editor and writer with Desert Golf & Tennis

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