After a few days of rumors and speculation, details of another Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson match emerged with a new twist from the last incarnation. Joining the legendary pair are two legends from the NFL in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Reportedly, Tom Brady will team up with Phil Mickelson and square off against the duo of Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning at a yet to be disclosed location.
In a world without live sports, anything being thrown at sports fans is like throwing red meat to the lions. But with all the things that went wrong with The Match the first time around, just because this event would be a much needed outlet for sports fans doesn’t mean it won’t leave us disappointed if it has the same pitfalls as the first incarnation.
Here’s 5 ways The Match – Part II can live up to the high expectations that the first failed to achieve.
1. Cut Out the PGA Tour
A lot of the problems with the first Tiger vs. Phil match is that the PGA Tour threw itself into the proceedings, bringing with it a myriad of corporate red tape that watered down what should have been a more intense and cutthroat affair.
Talk of the Tiger vs. Phil match first started around the 2018 Masters, when Phil and Tiger were spotted playing a practice round together at Augusta. Word then started to leak from both camps that each side was negotiating a deal between themselves and the networks to hold a one-on-one death match for $10 million around the 4th of July in Las Vegas. Rumors swirled that each was putting up their own money while also creating the opportunity for both sides to make press bets and mid-round prop bets for thousands and thousands of dollars of their own money. An idea like this is rivetting television.
Somewhere along the way the PGA Tour got involved. While the PGA Tour has begun to embrace gambling, there were two major problems for that format of The Match that presented itself to the organization. First, the PGA Tour is so conscientious about player image that the thought of having two of its biggest stars playing what amounted to a multi-million dollar gambling match isn’t exactly the best look in terms of its squeaky clean public relations strategy. Second, they were being completely cut out of the revenue pie and The Match presented a direct rival to regular PGA Tour events. It stood as an opportunity for top players to branch out away from the PGA Tour and form their own lucrative events (which later down the road another threat in the Premier Golf League appeared).
While we don’t know exactly for sure when the PGA Tour intervened between the two parties, the 4th of July dual between the two was postponed and instead rescheduled to Thanksgiving weekend, a date wouldn’t compete against any of the PGA Tour’s fall season. In addition, no longer would each be putting up their own money, but the purse for the winner would come from from advertising and broadcast revenue with the winner receiving money for their foundation. And lastly, no longer was the purse $10 million, but only $9 million. The lowering of the purse was widely speculated to accommodate FexEx, who wished for their $10 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup to remain as the most lucrative golf prize in the sport.
From there, the whole thing felt forced. Phil and Tiger held a per-tournament press conference where Phil baited Tiger to accepting a $100,000 side bet (for charity, of course) that Phil would make the first birdie of the day (which Tiger happily accepted!) But this was obviously a cheap ploy to drive attention to the event much like two boxers or UFC fighters getting in a “mix-up” at the weigh in. And from there, the watered down event felt hollow, it felt unimportant, and from the opinion of this viewer fell short of expectations.
Long story short, a lot of the problems of the event stem from the fact the PGA Tour got involved. Why Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson let the PGA Tour force itself into the proceedings and dictate how the event would go is a puzzle to me. What were they going to do if Tiger and Phil put their foot down and cut them out of the deal, kick them off the tour? Not with the specter of the new television rights negotiations on the horizon and the looming specter of the Premier Golf League threatening their existence. Tiger and Phil held all the leverage and could have made the event the $10 million death match most golf fans were craving for, and they had the power to tell the PGA Tour to kick rocks.
Unfortunately, the PGA Tour once again has stuck its nose in the middle of this match, as reportedly they have yet to give their blessing to allow the match to go forward. It’s likely because the tentative date of The Match – Part II is in mid-May, right around the time the PGA Tour is aiming to restart the tour (a laughably unfathomable pipe dream for anyone who reads the news). Here’s one person who hopes Tiger and Phil tells the PGA Tour to piss off and plan their own match without all the corporate red tape.
2. Improve the Technical Production
The production of the event was probably the biggest complaint of them all. From the jump, viewers complained that they were unable to access the internet stream of the event after having to pre-pay $19.99 for it. In addition, whatever patch Turner Sports applied to try and alleviate the problem ended up allowing full access to the live stream without asking viewers to pay the pay-per-view fee. As a result, Turner Sports ended up broadcasting the event for free and refunded anyone who purchased the event before it started, and despite massive ratings ended up losing as much as $10 million on the event.
In addition, while both Tiger and Phil were mic’d up the announcers did a poor job allowing viewers to listen to the two talk on the golf course and to their caddies and often talked over them. Peter Jacobson was most guilty of this, and they often cut back way too much to the Capital One desk to hear us listen to inane Charles Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson banter.
Having the broadcast steamroll through interesting nuggets on the golf course in favor of a FedEx Leaderboard update or an interview with a CEO isn’t new, and there probably isn’t anything they can do to fix that. But what they can do is make sure the technical production of the event is air tight, with no glitches for its viewers. If that means they also partner up with the cable companies to offer it over the air to make sure there’s at least one reliable method to watch the event, it’s a step they’ll have to take.
3. Everyone Puts Up Their Own Money
Let’s face it – once it was known that neither was putting up their own money it deflated the stakes of The Match. We already see golfers compete every week for a giant sack of cash derived from advertising revenue, television rights, etc. What we don’t see is the players go mano y mano for their own cash. That adds a much different sense of drama to each shot knowing that either could stand to lose millions of their own dollars on a poor shot. And while $10 million is probably a rounding number to both players in the grand scheme of things, it’s still hurts their ego to have to dish that out to their rival.
All four of Brady, Manning, Tiger and Phil have more than enough resources to be able to risk their own money. Even if it’s for only $100,000 each, the idea that all of them has to reach into their wallets and pay out the winning team personally is a fun concept to think about. They’re playing for charity, is it really that scandalous for them all to pony up the purse themselves? And if they insist on making money for themselves on this, just pay them each an appearance fee under absolute secrecy to give the illusion that all of the money up for grabs is from their own checkbooks.
4. Nassau Format With Ability to Press Bets
While having the first match go to a playoff (even if the concept of creating a makeshift 90 yard playoff hole was absurd), in most cases a traditional match could end well before the 18th or have its outcome decided well before the match officially is over. Who’s to say Phil won’t be completely on his own after Tom gets a nasty case of the shanks, leading to Peyton and Tiger winning 5&4 in a sleeper of a match.
Having the format of the match be a Nassau would heighten the stakes and the drama for the viewer and add more ways players can either win big or lose big. It also could present for more ways the event could be live bet for gamblers. By adding stakes to the Front Nine, the Back Nine, and the Match in its entirety, there’s a lot of ways to make it entertaining for both gamblers and non gambler viewers. The Nassau is a very familiar format for golf fans and an easy one to follow for those who aren’t. In addition, the ability for either team to press bets would give many more ways to make it interesting from a gambling perspective and add much needed drama.
5. Alternate Shot Format
Adding non-professional golfers like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to the proceedings makes it a little more interesting. But if they’re planning having them team up to play a traditional four-ball match where both Tom and Peyton get strokes on certain holes based on their handicaps, that’s not going to make for a very interesting viewing experience. It’ll just be like watching the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which uses this same format and often leads to excruciatingly long rounds because everyone has to play their own ball through the end of each hole.
But what would be fun is each team played Alternate Shot. That way, both the match itself will move at a much better pace and it’ll add a lot more entertainment than it would if it were a four-ball match.
Picture these two scenarios. Tiger Woods steps up onto the 1st tee and blasts his drive 300 yards down the fairway, putting alleged 4 handicap Peyton Manning in the mayors office with a great look at the pin. Instead, Peyton hits this ugly duck hook 20 yards left of the green, eliciting laughs from everyone and forcing Tiger to now scramble to get up and down for par.
On the next hole, Tom Brady is teeing off for his team and hits a banana slice deep into the woods. Phil looks like he’s in jail, but he sees a tiny sliver through the trees and magically punches out onto the green to save the hole for the team.
Having it be alternate shot with the occasional mishit from Peyton and Tom looming at a moment’s notice makes it a lot more entertaining than seeing if Peyton can get in the hole at 4 net birdie to win the hole for his team.