First, they were rivals. Then, they were friends. And now, they are spending Thanksgiving weekend playing for $9 million.
In early August, it was announced that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would be taking their talents to the desert and lights of Las Vegas for a made-for-TV Pay Per View grudge match with $9 million on the line.
Let’s first dive into the matchup with a little background on Tiger's and Phil’s shared history on the golf course.
History of Phil vs. Tiger
The two golfers have been linked over the past twenty-five years as the two-headed face of golf. Their rivalry has not only been on the course but off as well. Tiger’s ascent to becoming one of the world’s most popular athletes in the world was in large part due to the brilliant marketing as the face of Nike during the peak of his career. Phil also seized popularity, and hundreds of millions of endorsement dollars, when he became the photogenic star of numerous commercials and the face of Callaway Golf.
On the course, Tiger and Phil have had strange trajectories that divided their careers once each golfer turned 33 years old. Tiger won all of his 14 major championships before he became 33 whereas Phil won all five of his major titles after his 33rd birthday.
Woods became the poster child of fitness once he stepped into the spotlight with his first win at the Masters in 1997. Many contributed Phil’s late-career resurgence to his new devotion to diet and exercise.
The two golfers have been paired together in tournaments 37 times with Tiger leading the head-to-head with a record of 18-15-4. In majors, when the two golfers played a round together, Tiger’s lead is slimmer with a record of 5-4-1.
The last time the golfers shared the course was in May’s Players Championship where Tiger’s 72-71 bested Phil’s 79-73.
Before the duo played at the 2018 Players, Tiger was asked about playing with Phil and shared the admiration he has for Mickelson. “We both have done this throughout our careers, (as) we’ve always looked at each other and said, ‘Where is he on the board,’” Woods said. “And it’s been that way for our entire careers, and now that we have the opportunity to play against each other again on the first day when the gun blows, it’s gonna be fun. And I enjoy either competing with him on the first or second day or whether it is the last day. It’s always been a blast. And he’s one hell of a competitor. And so it’s going to be a challenge to try and beat him.”
The format of the PPV event will be match play. The winner will take home a 9 million dollar payday.
If you are looking for an advantage with all-time match play records, then the clear winner is Woods. Tiger’s all-time record in match play tournaments is a staggering 50-16-2. Woods is 4-1-2 in Ryder Cup play. Phil Mickelson’s all-time match play record is 33-24-4 with a 5-5-1 career record in Ryder Cup competitions.
Tiger and Phil’s match will take place at the Tom Fazio-designed Shadow Creek course. Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful courses in the world, Shadow Creek has been recognized by Golf Digest and Golf Week with an esteem that is shared by few other courses. The course features creeks, waterfalls, and gardens all set against the backdrop of mountains.
The two golfers will have their work cut out for them over the final four holes. The 15th is a tight par-4 with a fairway that is cut narrow by a long creek that runs along the left side of the hole. The 17th is an elevated tee par-3 where the golfers will hit into a green that is surrounded by a lake that is fed by a gorgeous waterfall.
Finally, the 18th hole is a stunning par-5 where the tee shot must clear one of three lakes that run along the right side of the fairway. The second shot into the green must clear a creek that runs in front of the green.
Shadow Creek will be a formidable course for the two golfers and a perfect setting for the televised match.
Let’s Make Some Bets
With the match in Vegas, of course, there is betting already being taken at local casinos on the match. Tiger Woods is the presumptive favorite with odds of -160 to Phil’s +140. Basically, to win $100 on Tiger, you have to bet $160. The opposite is true for the underdog Mickelson as a bet of $100 will win the bettor $140.
The purse for the match is a whopping winner-take-all 9 million dollars. According to the press release, Woods and Mickelson will also make side-challenge bets with each other for such contests as longest drive, closest-to-the-pin or other typical golf betting challenges with the money going to charity.
Since the announcement, Tiger and Phil have traded barbs on Twitter. Tiger struck first with a tweet that just said, “It’s on.” Phil responded with his own tweet that read, “I bet you think this is the easiest $9 million you will ever make.” with a laughing emoji as punctuation.
What is not commonly known about the duo is that Woods and Mickelson have become closer as the years have progressed in their careers. Both golfers have previously shared text messages of support when one of them was in contention for a tournament win. And they’ve both shown empathy when struggling with their game.
Those text exchanges have gotten salty with trash talk at times. As Phil Mickelson told Alan Shipnuck in Golf Magazine, “The tough thing is that he has the trump card: his career record. Whether’s it’s 14 majors, 79 wins, however many player-of-the-year awards, FedEx Cups. He owns all the trump cards. So I have to be very careful and strategic in my smack talk, because if I lay something down, in comes a trump card, you know, and that shuts me right up.”
With word that both golfers will be mic’d up for the entire match at Shadow Creek, viewers will likely get a strong sense of this warm, yet competitive, friendship.
Putting aside the 9 million dollar prize, the event will draw viewers who want to see the two greatest golfers of the past 25 years put it all on the line.