At the 2018 Tour Championship, Tiger Woods snapped a five-year victory drought while basking in the adulation of an adoring throng of fans who engulfed him on the 18th fairway and a nation of riveted viewers who turned off the NFL to watch history being made.
Phil Mickelson finished last.
Sure, it's just one tournament, but that outcome offers something of a metaphor for these two players' career arcs: Tiger rising to the moment while Phil sulks in the background. Tiger's historic Tour Championship win will undoubtedly draw more eyeballs to his upcoming Thanksgiving showdown with Phil, but it also underscores the gulf between the two in terms of impact and accomplishment.
The made-for-TV Tiger vs. Phil $9 million winner-take-all prime-time match — or, as they're billing it, The Match (I guess the capital letters add gravitas) — is set for Thanksgiving weekend at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. But is there a viable pay-per-view audience for a matchup of past-their-prime legends? Would such a match prove anything?
And, most of all, is Tiger vs. Phil even a true rivalry?
After all, Woods crushes Lefty in every significant statistical category:
- PGA Tour wins (80 to 43)
- Majors (14 to 5)
- Money earned ($112 million to $88 million, give or take)
- Player of the Year awards (10 to 0)
Phil outstrips Tiger in such ignominious categories as:
- U.S. Open runner-ups (6 to 2)
- U.S. Open on-course meltdowns (1 to 0)
- Insider trading accusations (also 1 to 0)
Woods has never finished second to Mickelson in a major, and Phil has finished second to Tiger at a major only once, the 2002 U.S. Open, a three-shot win for Tiger and the closest they’ve ever come to a high-stakes head-to-head showdown.
Plus, unlike in years gone by, there’s no clear animosity between the two these days. You might even say there’s a blossoming bromance, making any mano-a-mano match more of a friendly Nassau than a cutthroat death struggle.
But when you’re talking about the last three decades of golf, this twosome stands apart in terms of accomplishments, impact and notoriety. It’s really not even close. (Give Rory and Jordan a few more majors, and then we’ll talk.) So, now that they've put this thing together, we’ll be watching. Were they putting up their own cash for this one-time-only money grab, it suddenly would become must-see TV.
For your reference, here is a head-to-head comparison of golf’s still-reigning glitterati:
The Mickelson File
• Age: 48
• Winner of five major championships (3 Masters, 1 British Open, 1 PGA Championship)
• One of only 8 players with as many as three Masters wins
• One of only 15 men to hold at least three legs of the career Grand Slam
• Runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times
• 23 top-3 finishes, 38 top-10 finishes at major championships
• Winner of 43 PGA Tour events, 9th all time
• Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012
• Remains last amateur to win on the PGA Tour (1991 Northern Telecom Open)
The Woods File
• Age: 42
• 80 PGA Tour wins, second all-time to Sam Snead
• Winner of 14 major championships (4 Masters, 3 U.S. Opens, 3 British Opens, 4 PGA Championships), second all-time to Jack Nicklaus
• One of only five men (with Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen) to hold the career Grand Slam
• One of only two (with Nicklaus) to win each major at least three times
• 25 top-3 finishes, 40 top-10 finishes at major championships
• Only player ever to win four consecutive majors
• Scoring average of 67.79 in 2000 the lowest single-season average in Tour history
• PGA Tour Player of the Year a record 10 times
Career Earnings from Endorsements (as of 2017)
Tiger: $1.7 billion
Phil: $815 million
2017 Earnings from Endorsements
Tiger: $37.1 million
Phil: $43.5 million
Tiger: 6.24 million
Phil: 234K (just joined Twitter on Aug. 22)
"The Match" Fact Sheet
• Date/Location: Friday, Nov. 23, Shadow Creek Golf Course, Las Vegas, Nev.
• Winner's Share: $9 million (winner take all)
• Format: 18-hole Match Play
• Live pay-per-view coverage of the event will be distributed through Turner’s B/R Live, the company’s new premium live sports streaming service, AT&T’s DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, and will be offered to other on-demand platforms.
• HBO Sports and its 24/7 reality franchise will provide pre-match coverage.
• Bleacher Report's House of Highlights will offer comprehensive highlights and behind-the-scenes content.
• Turner’s TNT will also televise programming with select content from the event in the weeks following the live competition.
• Turner International will facilitate distribution of live PPV access to the event outside the U.S.
• As part of the live event, both Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side-challenges against one another during the match. For instance, Woods or Mickelson could raise the stakes by challenging the other to a long-drive, closest-to-the-pin or similar competition during a hole as they play their match, with money being donated to the winning golfer’s charity of choice.