$10m Tiger Woods v Phil Mickelson showdown would be in poor taste


Where the bromance of Tiger Woods and will go next remains uncertain. There have already been suggestions that the pair, united only by mutual indifference for the main chunk of their careers, could be playing partners in the USA’s Ryder Cup team next month in France. That, it seems safe to say, would be good for business.

That commerce is a vital undertone for Tiger and Phil has been made perfectly obvious in recent times. Talks are under way regarding a $10m (£7.8m) winner-takes-all match between these old adversaries. Las Vegas, where one can bet on flies climbing walls, has been cited as the potential venue. The PGA Tour, which will not sanction the duel as an official event, is thought to be less than enamoured of two of its biggest names going rogue. There is, however, precious little it can do about it.

Such negative sentiment should actually be more widespread. This is ostentation at its worst. Woods v Mickelson, version 2018, is about as contrived a sporting contest as exists. The fortunes on offer render it borderline offensive.

There will be a charitable element, of course, but neither Woods nor Mickelson should be at the career stage of performing in lucrative exhibition matches. Either player, and especially Woods, adding to his haul of majors would be of greater benefit to the sport.

Mickelson’s recent penchant for long-sleeved golf shirts and ludicrous dancing in an advert linked to the same shows he knows the value of dollars. Woods, similarly, has always been well aware of the bottom line; his level of tournament appearance fee, which remains largely unaltered, illustrates that.

This match has been a slow burner. It was originally pencilled in for early July before negotiations found the rough. Woods and Mickelson played together in a practice round in the lead-up to the Masters. At the subsequent Players Championship they were paired for competitive rounds. After that Mickelson pointed towards what was to come.

He said: “The excitement that’s been going on around here, it gets me thinking; why don’t we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head-to-head and just have kind of a high-stakes, winner-take-all match.

Woods said with a smile: “Now, I don’t know if he wants a piece of me but I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do and I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round.” Coincidentally, it broke within weeks that negotiations were under way. Woods added: “We will play for whatever makes him uncomfortable.”

Mickelson has been far more talkative on the subject. He added: “It’s a ridiculous amount of money. No matter how much money you have, this amount will take both of us out of our comfort zone.

“As we’ve developed a good relationship, we’ve started to collaborate on some other things that have allowed us to achieve things that we couldn’t do on our own.

“Like this match. I couldn’t do it on my own. He couldn’t do it on his own. But together we’re trying to create something pretty special.” Subtext: ker-ching. What next? Theme bars?

This is more about what is not available than what is. Woods and Mickelson are clearly no longer at the peak of their powers. If Woods shoots 75 to beat Mickelson’s 77, does anyone care? It would be like a football testimonial in which Manchester United’s class of 92 see off Arsenal’s Invincibles. All parties are still relevant but in a different context to before.

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Mickelson has won only once . Woods’s latest comeback from surgery, while impressive, is not the stuff of legend. It is also a misconception to portray Woods and Mickelson as one-time ferocious rivals. When Woods was in his pomp, the left-hander was still to have his finest spell. Ernie Els challenged Woods to a far greater extent than Mickelson. Back then, at least, needle existed. Now, the prospect of chums joking their way through a $10m round is hardly riveting.

That will not stop TV companies and sponsors contributing to the prize purse. Yet when golf is grasping desperately for relevance in a congested sporting world, it seems a leap of faith to portray such a public show of the rich getting richer as any form of solution. Sometimes less really is more.