Recap of the Match
Things couldn't have gone any better on Hole No. 1 as Mickelson had a $200k side bet on the line. He needed to make birdie and gave himself a very good look from just outside nine feet. He missed the putt and Tiger Woods' response made it even better. He made sure to wait for Mickelson before walking off and then presented Phil with a "good speed" comment before turning his head with a huge grin plastered on his face.
Mickelson may have lost the side bet but got the initial leg up when Woods missed a short par-saver at the par-4 second hole, from inside four feet.
Woods was not sharp for the remainder of the outward nine but Mickelson couldn't capitalize. Justin Thomas summed it up nicely with his tweet that read, "Phil is a hot putter away from being 6 up right now! Can’t give TW that many chances. Let’s hear the trash talking."
Tiger evened the score at the short, par-4 11th when he drove it close to the green and then chipped it to gimme range. Mickelson couldn't make his birdie attempt from just outside 10 feet.
Woods carried the momentum onto the 12th and stuffed his wedge from around 75 yards to inside three feet. Mickelson couldn't match him. Woods took a 1-UP lead thru 12 holes.
Heading to a par 3 next, closest to the pin was the next side challenge. Playing over 200 yards, Woods impressed by landing his tee ball to 15 feet. Mickelson one-upped him by landing inside the 10-foot zone. Mickelson won the $300K side bet and also won the hole when he paid off the birdie.
Mickelson regained the lead just two holes later when Woods got sloppy around the greens. Advantage back to Mickelson.
The highlight of the match came two holes later when Tiger Woods chipped in for birdie, moving the match back to ALL SQUARE thru 17 holes.
They both birdied the par-5 18th before playing it again as the 19th hole. Tiger was forced to lay up after an errant tee shot. Mickelson found the greenside bunker and found himself with a bit of a fried egg lie. After the layup, Woods stuffed his approach to about 8 feet... but couldn't convert to win the match.
With daylight now a huge issue, they moved the final hole to the practice green where there was plenty of lights. They hit their tee shots from 93 yards which can be a tricky yardage for some. That was certainly the case for Woods who overshot the green on each of the first two times playing this hole.
Playing the makeshift hole for the third time, Woods finally got his distance right but so did Phil. Woods missed his opportunity from around 6 and a half feet while Mickelson buried his birdie putt from around 4 feet to WIN THE MATCH.
Phil Mickelson won the match on the 22nd hole played.
Phil Mickelson: "When we've played in the past, you give me the -- (holding hand up) -- this. Like, you know, like leave you alone, and I do. But it was nice to be able to talk for me because it relaxes me a little bit."
Tiger Woods: "Well, I've tried to keep myself sharp in the last month or so. I needed a break away from the game to physically get myself a little bit stronger and refreshed; I was able to do that. I'm still probably trending on the way upward; getting sharp. This was fun to play a match play and not have to worry about making a 7 or 8 on the hole. That was good, and hit it into next week and stroke play event."
Phil Mickelson: "It was a bit of a risk because it's intrusive from a player's standpoint, but from our standpoint I think it went well. I think we enjoyed it. I'm curious to see how it was received and how the people enjoyed it.
But maybe in the big picture that will be something that people are interested in and want more of and bring people to the game and what have you. I don't know if we had that big a picture in mind. We were just trying to do something special, unique, different"
Tiger Woods: "I got, you know, focused on trying to hit a shot, to put heat on Phil, to put a ball on a green, to make putts. I got lost in the heat of the competition, which in hindsight looking back, that was fun to lose myself there in the heat of the moment in a competitive scenario against Phil."
Focus on – Presentation
One of the biggest upsides to showing this on a PPV network was the ability to go outside the box with coverage. How did that turn out? There was some good and some bad.
The Good -- The commentary was pretty hilarious at times and sometimes informative. Most of that came from personalities like Charles Barkley, Pat Perez, and Darren Clarke. A technical difficulty also made it so it was free to stream, instead of $20 to watch.
The Bad -- The commentary also really struggled at times. The biggest issue was timing. Tiger and Phil were Mic'd up the whole time but the announcers always seemed to talk over their conversations. The biggest offender was Peter Jacobsen who is a regular on Golf Channel and NBC. That may have worked against him in the Match because in his normal routine he makes small talk to fill the dead air. In his attempt to fill that dead air yesterday, he just happened to step on the toes of Tiger and Phil. This would be an easy fix if you just let him relisten to the broadcast and let him learn from it.
The Good -- Tiger and Phil were Mic'd up so we could hear intimate conversations on their way around Shadow Creek.
The Bad -- Both golfers seemed to get lost in the Match and really fell flat on the trash talking front.
The Good -- The side bets kept things interesting which helped alleviate some of that lack of trash talking.
The Bad -- The PGA TOUR didn't want the Match's sole focus to be these massive side bets so they limited the golfers to just two side bets per nine holes.
The Good -- Using drone shots provided some nice shots of the action.
The Bad -- Drones weren't utilized as much as I had hoped. It was mostly just used to show an overview of the hole which is already done since drones can record that footage before the event even starts. I had really hoped they would implement some new coverage techniques here.
The Good -- Live odds shown on screen. They used Mark Broadie to show live odds of who had the advantage as the Match progressed. They also fed in some live betting numbers from Vegas to show where the action was going. This was fun to see and helps viewers understand the numbers a bit more.
The Bad -- I think they could use the numbers in a better way. Perhaps comparing a golfer's individual performance from an approach bucket over the last year versus the TOUR average or putting from a particular distance (+ or - half a foot in each direction) versus the TOUR average. This would help us determine where a golfer separates himself, rather than just showing the chances that a golfer holes out, based on TOUR averages and what not. The PGA TOUR already partners with Data Golf to provide some daily recaps with win probabilities. It would be nice to see that implemented in future broadcasts, as well.
The Good -- Shadow Creek was one of the stars on display during the Match. This remarkably green course situated in the Vegas desert had plenty of character. Showing the Match as an exclusive course like this provided a glimpse of something that most viewers will never get to play, or see in person.
The Bad -- Playing on a new course meant that viewers were not familiar with the holes, leaving them a bit in the dark when it came to strategy and hole character. The pin placements were also a little tricky which left the viewers craving more birdies.
The Good -- A large prize pool was in play and plenty of side action went to charity.
The Bad -- A lot of complaints were flying in about them not using their own money for the prize pool. It's a valid complaint on the surface but I'd also imagine both golfers were going to be guaranteed a nice payday, regardless of who won the match. Using their own money as the buy-in might have helped them prep a little more for the event, even if they were going to pad their bank accounts win or lose.
Focus on – Future Events
Overall I'd consider this event somewhat of a success but there is plenty of room for improvement.
Tiger and Phil cross so many generations that it was an easy first pairing to go with. However, Tiger Woods is not really made for this arena. His subtle jabs don't make for great TV throughout the round and as we saw yesterday, when he got caught up in the moment he stopped jabbing for long periods of the match.
An obvious next step would be to implement some team matches. Keeping Phil and Tiger involved, let's put them together as teammates. We then have Tiger's elite play mixed with Phil's gambling prowess and trash talking ability. Woods would then be able to throw in a few golden jabs from time to time. A good combo. Who do we give them as opponents? Given the Mickelson connection, I think Jon Rahm would be a good choice. From there, maybe we pair him up with another household name in Sergio Garcia?
After that, we can also expand the match into multiple matches. If you are making this Pay-Per-View, why not make a full day out it? Give the degenerates in Vegas some lesser matches to wet their whistle before the main showdown.
If we are looking to expand further, we could always include some Skills competitions as a warmup, as you see in All-Star games for other sports. The biggest thing preventing this from happening is timing. However, Thanksgiving weekend would be a great spot on the calendar to make it happen. It's not going to mess with anyone's swing during major season and the ability to pair it with the other big matches draws in the money needed to get players to show up.
How do we prevent it from becoming repetitive? Do it only once a year and maybe add in a few qualifying checkpoints throughout the season. You make the most par breakers across the four majors that season? You earn a seat at the Thanksgiving table. Stuff like that.
Next on my list of improvements would be coverage. Technical difficulties aside, the coverage of this match was just so-so. I wanted more innovation. I was hoping they would use some of the new ShotLink technology to provide some 3-D imaging of approach shots or use some slow-motion filming as chips/approaches near the hole (like Tiger Vision from his video game). Maybe some drone usage to map out the next shot and ideal strategic routing of the hole laid out on the screen.
Last but not least, how about some easier pin placements? Mickelson won five holes during the Match, and three of them came on pars. As Mickelson put it, he drove it "like a stallion" but you'd never know based on the scorecard. Viewers like to see birdies fly off the shelves in these head-to-head matches so give them an easier course setup next time.