- Ever since the announcement came in July, each successive piece of news regarding the Tiger-Phil pay per view match has zapped the buzz from this patently made-for-television event.
It may seem like a while ago, but there was a time when the prospect of a Tiger vs. Phil match—under the neon lights of Las Vegas, broadcast on big network television, with $10 million of their own money on the line and both players interacting with fans in ways you don't see at a normal Tour event—generated legitimate excitement.
It was back in July, when Golf.com broke the story with an announcement that both players were working toward making a match-play showdown happen. Details were sparse then but they've become clear now, and each successive piece of information has zapped buzz from a spectacle that's still, somehow, a month and a half away. When viewership for the event inevitably fails to meet expectations, the organizers will have no one to blame but themselves.
The first misstep was not having it in July, when it was initially slated for, but an agreement couldn't be reached in time. Back then, Woods's comeback was still a novelty and Phil was playing at an elite level. Tiger's now played a full 18 events and seeing him tee it up, fused back and all, is no longer surreal. Phil, on the other hand, was a shell of himself in likely his last Ryder Cup and finished dead last at the Tour Championship. The last time casual golf fans saw both play was at that Ryder Cup, where they went a combined 0–6 and looked lifeless doing so.
Shortly after an announcement that the match would be on the Friday after Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas, we learned it would be pay-per-view, a move that immediately alienated a significant swath of casual fans. Pay per view is palatable in the fighting sphere because people are used to paying to see their favorite fighters compete for a belt, or the designation as the best guy in a weight class, or something.
Tiger and Phil are playing for what, exactly? Pride? These guys have won a combined 19 majors. The winning prize? They have a combined net worth of over a billion dollars, and you have to think the winner will donate his sum to charity.
Still, a few bucks to watch these adversaries-turned-buddies go head-to-head for the first time in match play isn't outrageous. Only it's not going to cost a few bucks. Turner Sports is reportedly charging $24.99 for "The Match," a price too steep for even golf diehards.
"Love TW and Phil to death...but there's a 0% chance I order that," tweeted Justin Thomas, the world No. 4 who is close with both players. "I'll be watching football!"
That's a sentiment shared by many: I like both guys, it's a cool idea, but it's simply not worth $25 dollars. Especially when there's a full 15-game slate of college football games on.
Then came two more pieces of head-scratching news Thursday, by way of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: first, no tickets will be available to fans who are willing—in true Vegas form—to splurge unnecessary dollars for a superfluous event. Instead, only a select crew of VIPs and sponsors will be allowed at Shadow Creek that day. This makes little sense from a dollars-and-cents, purely business perspective, but it'll also make for a less enjoyable viewing experience. Turner Sports promises “unprecedented access up to and during the competition," but we want to see these guys high-fiving fans and pumping the crowd up in a Ryder Cuppian way, not giving polite nods to their sponsors who parachuted in on their private jets.
We also learned Thursday that there will be no lights on the course at all. The sun will set in Las Vegas that day at roughly 4:30 p.m. PT, meaning the event could go as late as 8 p.m. on the east coast. But this was initially thought to be an under-the-lights showdown, the kind we never see on the PGA Tour, running late into the night like a prize fight does. Nah—it'll be players navigating a golf course in the late afternoon, as happens every single week on every golf tour in the world.
Plus, not everyone gets the Friday after Thanksgiving off. Do they expect people to shell out $25 bucks to sneakily watch on their phones while at the office?
Let's do a quick review of what this match could have been and what it in fact will be.
What it could have been: A primetime showdown on network television with a raucous atmosphere.
What it will be: A late afternoon, pay-per-view broadcast with only corporate big-wigs in attendance.
This has been a case study in how to drain life from a promising idea. Unless one of them shoots 59, Phil presses for $25 million or they break into a UFC fight on the back nine, I'm afraid "The Match" will come and go without much consequence. It didn't have to be this way.