9 things I learned from watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 'The Match'

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 23: Phil Mickelson celebrates with the winnings after defeating Tiger Woods as Ernie Johnson looks on during The Match: Tiger vs Phil at Shadow Creek Golf Course on November 23, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Match is over. Golf will never be the same. It's the dawning of a new era!

Just kidding. Golf is the same as it ever was, and the relative lack of groundbreaking content within The Match - Black Friday's televised $9 million pillowfight between two of golf's greatest competitors - suggested that this high-stakes, high-hopes event underperformed stakeholders' expectations.

But there were some takeaways, however humble. After goading my father into plunking down $20 for it (more on this later), he and I watched 'The Match' with some friends. Here's what was revealed:

1. Even two of the best golfers of all time can play stultifyingly mediocre golf

Bless them, but both Tiger and Phil seemed to have tucked into the turkey a little late on Thanksgiving evening, because their play was sleepy, at best. Both were 3-under par for the regulation 18 holes, but the main match was marked more by lackluster approaches and missed putts than thrilling play. Tiger burned several edges early before failing to challenge the hole much, and Phil left tons of relatively easy putts short.

2. Shadow Creek looks pretty, but its supporting role was left wanting

Shadow Creek is a major figure in the history of American golf course design, for better and worse. The carefully-routed streams, the expressive bunkers and the 17th-hole waterfall lent the expected sense of opulence to the scene, as did the requirement that Tiger and Phil take wedge divots out of the putting green (sacrilege for practically every golfer in the world) for the 95-yard overtime hole. The sight of still-healing aerification marks on the putting greens, plus Phil Mickelson's pre-match practice shots out of a bunker to a range green with large dead patches on it were a little incongruous.

3. "Closed to spectators" doesn't mean much

One source of hope for 'The Match' was that there might be throngs of spectators following along with the action. But a few weeks before, it was announced that no outside spectators would be on site.

Nevertheless, hundreds still followed the action in person. They were casino VIPs and industry insiders, plus some media. #GrowTheGame!

4. Golf announcers still cannot help themselves

Part of the allure of 'The Match' was the opportunity to peel back the curtain on what professional golfers talk about during competition. Even if it turned out to be mundane (SPOILER ALERT: it is!), it would have given viewers some information they didn't already have. Ernie Johnson (who is great on TNT's NBA coverage), Peter Jacobsen and Darren Clarke struggled to find the right moments to insert the normal running commentary, and instead steamrolled numerous little moments when Tiger and Phil were talking to peripheral attendees, their caddies and each other. Maybe 'The ReMatch' (since Tiger lost, is there any doubt there'll be one?) will give viewers the opportunity to toggle off the main commentary team in order to get a better fly-on-the-wall experience.

Watch: Shackelford, Mackenzie, Damron, Porath critique The Match

5. The coverage wasn't all bad

Despite his part in some of the interruptions, I liked what I heard from Darren Clarke on the broadcast. He's a thoughtful gent with spectacular hair and a great voice, both in timbre and charming Ulster accent. But Pat Perez was a revelation. When he was brought in to give a fellow-pro's opinion on the proceedings, he delivered in keeping with his unvarnished personality. I enjoy watching him play golf (he would've brought some needed gruff realness to this year's American Ryder Cup side), but I think after his competitive golf days end, he could be an excellent commentator. Finally, Shane Bacon continues to show that he's a likely future golf telecast host.

6. Pay-Per-View doesn't necessarily mean "no ads"

'The Match' was sponsored by Capital One, which is fine and necessary. But after paying $20 to see this event, the splicing-in of several minute-long ads with Samuel L. Jackson and Charles Barkley (who was delightful as always when brought in to offer his own off-the-cuff commentary) felt a bit strange. It's one thing to see the all the billboard-like ads on the golf course during the action, but the actual dedicated ads felt out-of-bounds.

7. "$19.99" actually means "Free!"

One of the main goals of 'The Match' was to help launch B/R (Bleacher Report) Live, a streaming service that accompanies the Ted Turner-owned media property. I had no issues viewing the program on TV, but heard several reports of authentication and other user issues for online viewers. It got so bad that Bleacher Report dropped the paywall and streamed the event for free, and Comcast is offering refunds for those who did pay.

8. Golf might be the new jai alai

For as long as I've been watching televised golf, money and betting have been taboo subjects during coverage. But if 'The Match' was any indication, that's going out the window as sports betting continues to become legal in the U.S. The way 'The Match' was promoted - with gestures to the pomp and circumstance surrounding prize fights - suggests that its organizers may want golf to become a sport that people will bet on despite not being avid players. Again, #GrowTheGame...

9. Tiger is still magical

Yes, he lost, and yes, he didn't play well and his back might be bothering him again, but Tiger Woods still has a knack for improbable shots in big moments. One down on 17, with Mickelson staring at a 12-footer for the win, Woods chipped in for birdie beneath Shadow Creek's big waterfall, giving the VIP crowd a JV version of one of his famous fist-pumps. He knew he needed to hole the short shot, and he willed the result into reality. His overall prowess may fade, but the magic's still there.

Did you watch 'The Match'? What did you think? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
54 Comments
Default User Avatar
Commented on

I paid the $20 through Spectrum and all worked fine. After nine it was so boring I started looking around the internet and when I was looking at CNN there was a link to watch for free. So I'm thinking its probably a delay. Nope, there it was live and with a great picture on my IMAC. Heard why later.

I thought Pat Perez was terrible, and Darren Clarke was great.

My biggest complaint is that this was hyped as two pros playing like two buddies at the club. Well, after Woods misses the first 3 footer, no way I'm giving my buddy anything until he makes a couple (and he wouldn't expect it). AND, how many times has Mickelson missed 3-4 footers on the back nine on Sunday. Plenty. I know cause I never go the fridge until he holes out. Woods should have made him make several of those on the back. But Phil did a good old boy payback when he gave Woods the seven footer on 21.I was groaning. This was not the trash talking" game on" gamesmanship I was hoping for.
Thanks for letting me vent.

Bill

Default User Avatar
Commented on

I was very disappointed that this was a pay per view. I believe that move lost a lot of viewers and personally I felt disrespected because of it. I have always felt golf became the every person sport because of the accessibility to participate as a fan or player. To go pay per view removes most middle and lower class folks from being able to participate. I worry that the masters, players, and other majors will go that way now. I feel golf suffers from going pay per view.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

I thought it a good and entertaining affair. The golf was good but not spectacular. After all three under "ain't bad golf". I liked the course, which is off grounds for the average "Joe" and I think it should be used again. I thought the players reacted well to each other. Kind of kept you on your toes to see if one would turn unprofessional and snarl at or about the other's game. Kind of competitive respect and jocularity we expect from golfers and carries though with my belief that, "I have never seen a dumb golfer". Other sports leave that an open question. I"m not asking for my $19.95 back but will take it if not too much trouble to get it.

Commented on

I’m glad I got to watch The Match. A reminder that there are no golf gods, only humans playing a godly game!

Default User Avatar
Commented on

Drone footage sub par.... need a better camera drone

Default User Avatar
Commented on

Lost local Spectrum connection due to technical difficulties. Got reconnected at 17, only to lose coverage again. The same happened at 18. The remaining holes were not available. I understand there were problems in Las Vegas as well. Missed all the good action. Disappointing!

Commented on

A waste of time and not worth watching for free. It’s just another gimmick game which might excite non golfers. Most of us would rather be playing.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

I ran home after 18 just to see it! Loved the banter, "you've been doing this crap to me for twenty years.".I think it could be even better with two twosomes and switching pairings after nine holes. You can get a few different games in and there would never be dead air.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

Adequate, but not stellar, golf from 2 guys mostly past their primes, but who still have some good game. The only thing that made it interesting for me was watching with a group of friends and making our own bets about longest drives, closest to pin, low score, etc. Having Tiger & Phil mic'd up seemed like a waste because they didn't say much of anything to each other, especially on the back 9. I've heard that Tiger has a subtle, but wry, sense of humor - so where was that over the long hours of the match? They were both very dry and droll. I also agree with other comments here that significantly more effort and funds should have been put towards charitable causes - neither of these guys really needs $9m!

Commented on

HoHum

More from the author
2 Min Read
July 1, 2022
Fife's newest course is back up and running, big-time Arizona resort renovation efforts and more highlight our latest dispatch.
4 Min Read
June 30, 2022
We share 10 public course patios and decks where watching golfers finish their rounds is almost as fun as playing.
3 Min Read
June 27, 2022
Three star-studded events are coming to TVs and streaming services in early July.
49 Min Read
June 23, 2022
The "Top 100 under $100" finally delivers a list of courses that every golfer can afford.
1 Min Read
June 22, 2022
Pinpoint wedges have helped McIlroy play some of the best golf of his career lately. Learn his technique and get more shot-saving tips from the four-time major champion.
Popular
23 Images
June 29, 2022
Summer's in full swing for GolfPass golfers who send us good photos in their reviews.
4 Min Read
June 20, 2022
U.S. Open-winning (old) putter technology, new irons from a maverick Texas company and a quick review of a new rangefinder feature in this month's edition.
2 Min Read
June 7, 2022
Amy Rogers reflects on how her dad got her hooked on the game.
2 Min Read
June 16, 2022
Watch featured groups and holes from The Country Club over Father's Day weekend.
Load More
Now Reading
9 things I learned from watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 'The Match'