Last Friday night, millions of hungover Americans turned on “The Match” to watch two of golf’s greatest legends, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, battle it out in a 1v1 Ryder Cup type match for nine million dollars. The Match ended up taking 22 holes to decide a winner, with “Phil the Thrill” eventually coming out victorious. Although this event was supposed to pioneer many new features into the way golf is showcased, the biggest takeaway from the event seemed to be that this marked a swan song for two aging legends.
A large portion of the hype surrounding the event was geared toward the debuts of new technological features and modes of watching golf including drone camera shots, pay-per-view streaming, and mic’d up players and caddies. The drone shots seemed to get mixed reviews: fans of this new feature applauded the drone’s ability to show fans the layout of each hole before it was played, whereas critics pointed out the unappealing noise the drones made at the event and the shaky camera work they provided. Pay-per-view’s debut in golf, meanwhile, was a complete disaster. Many instances were reported where fans purchased the $19.99 match and were unable to watch it due to technological difficulties. This resulted in Bleacher Report (the broadcasters of this event) deciding to make their online live stream free for all viewers. Many providers have since decided to reimburse everyone who purchased “The Match” so that loyal customers are not stripped of $20 while people who decided not to purchase the event eventually got to watch it for free. The effort to bring pay-per-view to golf has seemingly been squashed, and it will likely be a very long time before we see another attempt at this. The mic’d up players and caddies created a ton of buzz, some that were good and some that were bad. Fans loved getting to hear the back and forth banter between two of golf’s greatest personalities, negotiations of six-figure side bets, and player’s humanizing reactions to the shots that they hit. However, the heavy breathing and overall exhaustion exuding from the players that were caught on microphone seemed to tell fans something important about Tiger and Phil: this may have been the last time either player is involved in such highly anticipated competition.
Sure both Tiger and Phil won on the PGA Tour last year, and yes both players seem excited about their game going forward, but most signs point toward these players spending upcoming tournaments fighting to make the cut rather than win tournaments. Coming from someone who has lived and died by Phil Mickelson his whole life, it’s incredibly sad to admit that Phil’s days of true contention in major golf are likely done. And while Tiger fans will cite his performance at the Tour Championship and his ability to contend in two of last year’s major championships as evidence that Tiger is not done yet, his recent performances in matchplay suggest otherwise. At the 2018 Ryder Cup, Tiger Woods finished with a 0-4 record and Phil Mickelson with a 0-3 record. The two combined to give Europe 7 of their 17.5 points and played a major part in the US letting the Ryder Cup escape back to European arms. They were a shell of what they used to be, and it was clear that these players that won so many points for the US teams back in the day were not the same anymore. Then came “The Match”. Both players put on poor performances on the course. At one point Charles Barkley even proclaimed that he could play better than these two were playing. Neither seemed to be able to make a putt for their lives. Tiger even missed a pedestrian three-footer on hole #2 to give Phil the lead, something that would have disgusted the old Tiger, especially in such a crucial moment. Tiger and Phil, both in their 40’s, huffed and puffed their way to mediocre rounds overall and left fans begging for them to mix some cardio into their daily routines.
Overall, the event was not much more than a fun match between two past-prime golf legends that allowed fans to have nostalgic flashbacks of the old Tiger and Phil. Fans shouldn’t take this as a bad thing, but rather as a suggestion to appreciate what Tiger and Phil have done for the game, but also turn their attention to and enjoy the amazing talent the young generation of golfers bursting onto the scene has to offer. Golf is in a better place now than when Tiger and Phil originally started, and instead of dwelling on the past, golf fans should use Friday’s match as motivation to appreciate the incredible golf that is to come this season and beyond from golfers all over the world trying to become the next golf legend.