Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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Posted at: Dec 5, 2018, 1:45 AM; last updated: Dec 5, 2018, 1:45 AM (IST)

Tiger and Mickelson shootout way off target

Tiger and Mickelson shootout way off target
Phil Mickelson beat Tiger Woods in 22 holes to take home $9 million. file

Shona Manco

LAST week Phil Mickelson walked away with a cool $9 million, beating Tiger Woods in a match play or shoot out as they referred to it. In true Vegas style, he is also the proud owner of the winner's diamond-studded belt. Sadly, it was one of golf's lesser moments. As one journalist wrote, the line between awesome and silly is a pretty fine one.

Mickelson's antics and images of him gesturing and embracing heaps of money, banter amongst the two amidst bidding and gambling over the score, did little to raise the hype. Neither did promos of Mickelson's hair stylists getting him ready for the big day.

Mickelson bet Woods he could birdie the first hole and they doubled the stakes, the first hole was worth $200,000 — which Woods took off his opponent after he failed to make birdie on the first — which is more or less how it went. A side bet of $200,000 on the first shot went to Tiger's chosen charity, though Mickelson won $600,000 in side bets for his chosen charities, rewards for the longest drive and the closest to the pin prizes. That is the only thing that made it worth watching.

Vulgar and ridiculous?

As Prabhdev Singh, former editor Golf Digest says, "If the money went to charity I'm fine with it but if they pocketed it, I think it's vulgar and ridiculous. And it was supposed to be on a pay channel! Waste of time and money.” Eventually the matchplay finished under floodlights on the 22nd hole, on a makeshift par three, just 95 yards, which Mickelson birdied to win in style. Both the players were a bit rusty, putting was a tad scratchy, though Mickelson claimed to have driven the ball like a stallion, in his post-match interview. Only nine holes were won though both were quite generous with given putts. 

With no tickets for the public — access was reserved for a select few VIPs to the Shadow Creek golf course, the idea being that ideally only the two players would be on the course. This was golf's first pay per view tournament and it had its share of detractors and supporters. As one of my playing partners says, “It was a totally commercial pay per view event. It was akin to prostituting golf to the maximum.”

There are others who are willing to give it a few more chances before writing it off. “The concept behind it was good as golf is an expensive sport — this is one way to add the fun element and attract the masses. But, it definitely needs to be less commercial, if they want to build a following in the long run,” said Col. Karan Thandi. “Also the thrill of watching sport live should never be denied,” he added.

In fact, this weekend chatting between shots or walking down the fairway, most golfers who discussed the shootout concluded by effectually focusing on Mickelson's weakness for gambling, which has been discussed in hushed circles for quite a few years. And of course gambling on the course, of which there is a lot on our golf course too. Diwali stakes are enormous and there are a few regular fourballs — the same people play against each other daily — but the previous day's wins and losses are settled on the first tee before they head out again. The caddie fraternity is not far behind. 

They're always ready to strike a bet — whether on the score or number of birdies than or something as incidental as holing the next putt. Many a professional have sharpened their skills, playing under pressure to perform up to the wagers raised by these clever masters of the game.

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