One For The Money
I write this about a week after “The Match,” the Tiger- versus-Phil attempt to, well, to do what? These remain two of the best golfers ever. Nobody argues that. Tiger has 14 major titles, Phil 5. They are both international sports celebrities, as the first-name-only reference here makes obvious. Woods is 42, Mickelson 48. Each is a multi-millionaire, each won a pro tournament as recently as last year.
So what was the point?
The fact that the winner-take-all format brought $9 million to Mickelson with his playoff-hole victory is not the right answer. It just can’t be that simple. The $9 million is a lot of money to you and me. Not to these guys.
Were they merely seeking to entertain a golf audience in a down time for the sport? Golf used to call November and December its “silly season,” but that doesn’t work as well now, because the PGA has kept the TOUR going almost year-round.
Were they trying to recapture the sizzle of a rivalry that, quite frankly, never sizzled as much as it simmered. These guys were never going to go out to lunch together a lot, if at all. Phil always paid lip service to Tiger’s presence and domination, and how it led to greatly increased pots of gold on TOUR, many of those pots going to him. He was almost always willing to praise Tiger, but at least some of that was seen as Phil’s wonderful ability to be both glib and slick. Tiger not so much. He always seemed to have a piece of meat caught in his throat when asked about Phil, and especially on the subject of Phil’s tendency to stand and sign autographs for hours, which is not a tendency of Tiger’s.
Were these guys merely trying to grasp the brass ring one more time, to reassert themselves, while a steady parade of much younger and, currently, much more successful TOUR players start to replace them in the public eye? Was this meant to be a “take that Jordan, lookee here Justin, how do you like that Bryson?” moment?
Or were these two superstars and business giants simply railroaded by a corporate media idea that just sort of went flat? Did they, or their people, take enough time to ponder a possible downside, a kind of schlocky show that, while likely to be entertaining in parts because they can still really play, leave an audience with more wrinkled brows than high-fives?
It’s hard to tell how well it was received. I had friends who loved it, others who didn’t. Turner has reported that its Bleacher Report network website had “750,000 unique video views and 55 million minutes consumed.” (Here’s hoping we won’t have to start hearing the “minutes consumed” category on a regular basis. Sports needs LESS corporate-speak, not more.)
The biggest positive was that it was a nice way to give golf fans something to watch. The biggest negative was it was tone deaf to the point that it came across as little more than a greedy money grab by two guys who don’t need money.
Most troubling was the general crassness of the event. Every sports event doesn’t have to flaunt social consciousness. Like we did after 9-11, we always eventually go on with our games. But we almost always have a recognition of the world around us, even if all we do is pay it lip service. Tiger and Phil were playing in a Western part of the country that was searching for bodies and counting the number of homes lost and lives disrupted by some of the worst wildfires in history. You wonder if the smell of smoke wasn’t still drifting over Shadow Creek in Las Vegas as they played.
Both had promised charitable donations from the event. Neither was specific, nor timely, enough.
Wouldn’t it have been nice had Phil said, as he accepted his money, “Hey, I just made $9 million playing golf for four hours and people have lost their homes and loved ones in the wildfires. Take $1 million of this for relief efforts.”
Or if Tiger had said, “Hey, I lost, but not as much as the fire victims. Here’s a check.” Certainly not necessary. But it would have given a little lift to something that was, basically, pointless. ▪