Column: Pay to watch golf? Tiger and Phil in a money grab
It’s probably pure coincidence that the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match on Thanksgiving weekend was announced the same week as the first anniversary of one of the biggest con jobs in pay-per-view history.
You might remember a year ago when Conor McGregor went from mixed martial arts into boxing to challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr., and the gullible fans of UFC couldn’t wait to plunk down $100 to see all the action unfold on their TV screens at home.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much action, much as predicted beforehand by those who saw through the smokescreen and recognized the whole thing as a farce. Mayweather systematically broke McGregor down in a mismatch that went into the 10th round only because Mayweather carried McGregor to appease the crowd that paid to see it.
That’s not to say the so-called fight wasn’t a success, at least for the bank accounts of both men. It may have bordered on WWE, but it made Mayweather $300 million or so and gave McGregor a reputed $100 million payday that he could have never gotten toiling in UFC.
Woods and Mickelson won’t make that kind of money, not even close. The winner of their 18-hole match is supposedly guaranteed $9 million, while the loser will have to hope there are golf fans eager to buy the match so there will be a cut of the pay-per-view revenue to take back home on the private jet.
Thankfully, their match in Las Vegas likely won’t cost close to $100, either, though you will have to pay something to watch all the, er, action unfold. The price hasn’t been officially set for golf’s first pay-per-view, but the general consensus is it will be in the $20-30 range.
So what will you get for the money that you don’t get every week the two play on the PGA Tour? Well, so far the best Woods and Mickelson are offering is some trash talk as they make their way around the Shadow Creek golf club the day after Thanksgiving.
They are also promising some side bets, including perhaps a long drive wager. None of it with their own money, of course, but the broadcast will need a lot of filler to pad the time between actual shots.
So far, the match hasn’t gotten nearly the hype Mayweather and McGregor generated to fuel pay-per-view buys for their fight. The response has been lukewarm at best, with golf fans complaining online about having to pay money to watch the kind of thing they’ve always gotten for free.
“You should be ashamed at the PPV choice,” one wrote to Mickelson as he made his debut on Twitter to promote the match.
Actually, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. The Woods-Mickelson match is, as Woods is fond of saying, what it is. And what it is is a calculated money grab that should pay off handsomely for two players who between them have only one win in the past five years.
It doesn’t matter that the match is so contrived that Mickelson had to sign up for Twitter to promote it. Woods and Mickelson won’t draw anywhere near the 4.3 million pay-per-view buys generated by McGregor and Mayweather but there are enough golf super fans who will be willing to spend money to get what they believe will be the inside look at the players they have followed over the years.
Again, nothing wrong with that. They’ll have a little less Christmas money, but the memory forever of having Woods tell Mickelson, “No you’re up.”
Yes it would be a lot more fun if they were playing for their own money. Even more fun if Mickelson was playing Billy Walters, the golf hustler and gambler he got involved in insider trading with. Unfortunately, Walters is in prison for his part in that scheme and they don’t give out day passes in the federal system.
It’s silly season golf, a tradition that goes way back. The Skins game was a Thanksgiving weekend staple for years on network TV, and before that Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player teamed up in a series of televised exhibitions called Big Three Golf.
The money is a lot bigger now, and so is the marketing machine. Woods and Mickelson will both do their best to generate some as the match approaches, even if their showdown is probably 20 years past their prime.
Enjoy it if you can’t resist, but remember what it is that you’re buying. In the end, much like Mayweather-McGregor, it’s a glorified exhibition with only one real overriding purpose.
And that’s to separate dollars from your bank account.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg