Tiger vs. Phil just got really lame

Columnist
Yahoo Sports

Pay-per-view? Seriously, pay-per-view?

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and a whole lot of networks, marketers, sponsors and cable providers, agents, handlers and so forth want people to pay to watch them compete in gimmicky, match-play, winner-take-all (supposedly), $9 million event in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving?

H.L. Mencken famously said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” but actually a lot of people have and here’s hoping this operation is next. Tiger, Phil, TNT Sports and almost everyone else involved have too much money to lose it all, of course. That doesn’t mean this business venture doesn’t deserve to tank.

This, at first, seemed like some harmless fun. Two all-time greats playing a mano-a-mano match out at Shadow Creek Country Club in Vegas. Put live microphones on them and catch all the drama, strategy and trash talk. Add in a long-drive contest or maybe encourage some side bets, and it’s a good time. Maybe it’ll even go to the final hole.

This was golf not taking itself too seriously. And look, Vegas has long tried to sell fans on past-their-prime matchups, most notably the Mayweather-Pacquiao pillow fight in 2015. Tiger vs. Phil might be enough to flip over while watching some college football.

Then came the announcement Wednesday that this was going to be a pay-per-view event. A what? The biggest moments in golf are consumed for free. Been that way forever. If CBS is good enough for Sunday at Augusta, then how is this concoction worth a nickel? Couldn’t they just lower the pot and put it on broadcast TV?

This feels like a bad sports management thesis come to life. No mention of charity. Nothing about the guys putting up their own cash. Everything centers on the concept that $9 million is such a grand sum that each guy will feel back-nine-at-a-major pressure and actually try.

Nine million is a lot of money … except to these guys.

Over the last 12 months, Forbes has Phil making $41.3 million and Tiger checking in at $43.3 million. Mind you, together they combined for a single PGA Tour win in that time. Most of that money is through endorsements, but the total sum doesn’t include outside business ventures, which are considerable. And that’s just one year. They’ve each been on the list for a couple decades. Tiger’s estimated net worth is $760 million. The latest for Phil was $375 million.

That isn’t even the issue, though. They’ll play hard because they are competitors and they’ll want to win. The attention, the opponent, the exclusivity are enough to make them care. Or should be.

Which is why this doesn’t need to be $9 million. It could be 20 bucks. Phil and Tiger and everyone else could do it just because it’s a cool idea and whatever money is made could go to the winner’s charity of choice.

Instead you’re being asked to pay so one of these incredibly rich guys gets a little bit richer.

It’s clear this wasn’t thought through. Listen to Mickelson on Wednesday when asked about the event.

“It’s an opportunity for us to bring golf to the masses in prime time during a period where we don’t have much going on in the world of golf,” Phil said, according to ESPN.com.

The masses? Via pay-per-view? The masses don’t have another $49.95 or whatever — the fee hasn’t been disclosed — for the cable bill. And by pointing out that it is at a time when pro golf is essentially quiet, all he’s doing is noting that he didn’t have a better way to make money that weekend.

Demystifying golf, making it different, perhaps appealing to younger or different demographics all are worthy goals for the sport. If anything, this should have been a way for two guys who have gotten so much out of golf to give back to golf.

That isn’t what they are doing here. For Phil and Tiger, for all the businesses and middle men who will get paid, for an industry that is too often viewed as elitist and only for the wealthy, this is just an old-fashioned money grab.

And it’s your money they are trying to grab.

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