Two of the world's most high-profile golfers will meet in a much-publicised clash on 23 November local time in a non-ticketed event available only on pay-per-view.
Passes to watch the matchplay contest cost US$19.99. The pair will wear microphones during the clash and commentators will include actor Samuel L. Jackson and former basketballer Charles Barkley.
The prize money will total a cool US$9 million, a figure that was reduced after an appeal from the PGA tour.
More than its appeal purely as a sporting contest, the event will be closely watched by industry figures to determine whether there is a lucrative future in such one-on-one contests. Boxing has long made mountains of money from one-off pay-per-view events but other sports have been reluctant to embrace the format.
Golf has never seen anything like this before…
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 22, 2018
Mickelson seeking ‘bragging rights’ over Tiger Woods in TV event
The pre-event back and forth between Woods and Mickelson has very much taken on the tenor of boxers smack talking in the lead-up to a big fight.
“The bragging rights that will go on for months and years after this will be just as valuable (as the money),” Mickelson said.
“If I’m able to come out on top I am the worst guy to lose to. I’ll find a way to make sure you never forget.”
“He’s that guy,” said Woods.
One promotional opportunity explicitly played up the ka-ching factor, with the pair posing with piles of cash.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will make side bets with each other during $9 million golf showdown https://t.co/0v9BEUiFxu
— Bloomberg (@business) November 21, 2018
The event will be a smorgasbord for gamblers
The players have already made a number of side bets, including a US$200,000 wager on the first hole. It is expected they will make rolling bets as they go and maintain spirited banter as the contest progresses.
As recently as 2016, it seemed there was little market for prime-time golf matchplay contests, with a planned clash between Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler failing to get enough commercial support to go ahead.
After the historic decision in May 2018 to enable US states to legalise sports betting, the event has spawned scores of novel betting markets.
US gamblers are able to wager on who will win each hole, whether the players will swear during the broadcast, how many times Tiger will twirl his clubs and even what colour shirt each of the pair will wear.
Turner Sports President David Levy said the event presented “almost a petri dish of where I think prop betting in sports is going.”
Even with the star power of Woods, Levy was adamant the event needed to be billed as a betting extravaganza and something of a grudge match in order to capture a wide audience.
A winner-take-all, $9 million pay-per-view match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson poses a question that could shape the future of golf on television: How many people are willing to pay to watch? https://t.co/idKyKiUoc0 pic.twitter.com/ASFOtw7Zdh
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 21, 2018
Is there a market for a Tiger Woods v Phil Mickelson matchplay contest?
Despite the event’s high profile, it is not yet clear whether it will be fully embraced by viewers who have regular access to golf majors on free-to-air television. The UK rights to the event were only sold this week after British broadcasters baulked at the original asking price.
No tickets to watch the event in person have been made available, with only VIP guests and sponsors able to attend.
Some observers have said hyping the contest as the ultimate meeting of two long-term rivals is overblown given that Tiger Woods was the number one golfer in the world for 683 weeks while Mickelson never reached the top spot.
Former world number one Rory McIlroy said he won’t bother to watch the event. “Look, if they had done it 15 years ago it would have been great,” he told reporters. “But nowadays, it’s missed the mark a little bit.”