Top 10 Busted: The Match (Tiger vs. Phil)

Synopsis: Despite my intentions, I didn’t watch “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving Weekend 2018. I had overcome the thought of paying $19.99 to watch an event well beyond its prime, but had trouble ordering it. Ultimately, I decided that getting a Christmas tree with my family would be a much better use of time. I certainly made the right call given the scathing reviews of the golf played by the competitors. Still, I bet there will be a rematch based on the ending when Lefty sunk a 4′ birdie putt on the [fabricated 93-yard] 22nd hole. The following post focuses more on my failed experiences with pay-per-view TV, but ends with the conclusion that “The Match” deserves Top 10 Bust status.

Top 10 Busted: The Match (Tiger vs. Phil)

I have been willing to spend money on a Pay-Per-View event only four times in my life.

  1. WrestleMania 1 on March 31, 1985.
  2. Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks on June 27, 1988.
  3. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield on June 28, 1997.
  4. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson on November 23, 2018

Overall, I have gone 0-4 watching these events despite my intentions.

The heyday of my wrestling fandom

Before everyone acknowledged that professional wrestling was a complete farce, I enjoyed watching the World Wrestling Federation as if at least half of the matches were real. I spent many hours as a teenager watching all-time greats like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and Ric Flair. After finishing my paper route on Saturday mornings, I relaxed by watching my favorite soap opera (i.e. the WWF) before heading off to mow lawns or do other yard work.

When WWF founder Vince McMahon realized that unsuspecting teens would pay to watch their heroes perform in the ring, he created WrestleMania. I don’t remember the cost, but my friends and I agreed to pool our money to watch the event at Jay Frazier’s house. Of note, we agreed that the marquee match-up of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Paul Orndorff and Roddy Pipper would be worth the fee. Despite our above-average intelligence, we couldn’t figure out the payment logistics so we missed the event.

Instead, we amused ourselves by challenging each other to max out the rowing machine in Jay’s rec room. When that competition didn’t end with a clear winner, one of my friends offered up a “Wall Sit” challenge. That friend sat against a wall without support at a 90° angle for three minutes to set the bar. After five minutes doing the same thing, I stopped voluntarily and questioned the value of the contest. Lost on everyone in the room, I had biked thousands of miles delivering newspapers and walked thousands of miles mowing lawns so my “thunder thighs” didn’t feel the same pain.


The first memory I have of professional boxing involves Leon Spinks’ victory over Muhammed Ali in 1978. At the time, I had no idea about Ali’s transcendental value as a cultural icon. I only viewed the outcome as an incredible upset of the self-proclaimed greatest fighter of all-time. My dad was not a knowledgeable sports enthusiast, but I’ll always remember him telling me that “Ali lost” as if he understood the implications of David beating Goliath. Then again, the only “cartoon” he let my brother and me watch was “Davey and Goliath” so he actually might have.

In retrospect, Goliath should have looked more like Marmaduke to keep the analogy more accurate.

Ten years later, I had the chance to watch Leon’s brother Michael in a title match against Mike Tyson. At the time, neither boxer had lost a fight and each one had a legitimate claim to the heavyweight title. My buddies and I heard that an acquaintance had ordered the fight so we showed up to watch it. However, we balked at the $20 cover charge per person for food and the fight so we waited outside as we pondered what to do.

As a five-person crew, we thought that we could spend $100 much better. After hearing a roar inside the house, we agreed to bite the bullet. Even though the doorman/goon collecting money had left, we had trouble getting in given the volume of people coming out the front door. While squeezing through the crowd, I heard someone lament, “That sucked! Tyson’s a beast!” The result didn’t stop us from watching the replay and eating some food before leaving 15 minutes later confirming that we could (and would) spend $100 much better.

The Bite Fight

Nine years and 1 day later, I tried to watch a title match between Iron Mike and Evander Holyfield in a rematch of a fight won by Holyfield nine months earlier. In those nine years, Tyson had proven his human frailty losing to Buster Douglas in the biggest upset in sports history (with 42-1 odds at the peak) and serving time in jail as a rapist. As business school student at the time, I hoped to find a bar with the fight to confirm my belief that the Americans love a return to grace more than rags to riches. Perhaps needless to say, I would not have balked at a $20, or even a $40-50, cover charge. Still, we failed in our attempt.

As we headed to breakfast the next morning, we passed a classmate who asked if we saw the fight. After admitting our futility, we heard that Tyson got disqualified for biting Holyfield’s ear during the match. Given my sarcastic acceptance of his statement with a bunch of “yeah, yeahs,” our classmate emphatically stated that it really happened. Still, I doubted him until I turned on SportsCenter and confirmed it for myself. In retrospect, I would have paid $100 to be able to say that I saw that fight bite.


To put “The Match” in perspective, I should describe historical made-for-TV competitions involving various golfers from 1999-2004.

Year Competitors TV Rating
1999 Tiger Woods vs. David Duval 6.9
2000 Tiger Woods vs. Sergio García 7.6
2001 Woods/Sörenstam vs. Duval/Webb 6.1
2002 Woods/Nicklaus vs. García/Trevino 5.1
2003 Woods/Els vs. García/Mickelson 4.6
2004 Woods/Kuehne vs. Mickelson/Daly 3.6
2005 Woods/Daly vs. Goosen/Mickelson 3.0

Note: Each rating point equated to approximately 1.4 to 1.5 million viewers during this time period. As such, the number of viewers ranged from approximately 10.5 million in 2000 to 4.5 million in 2005.

I only watched the first three events before losing interest in the format. After compiling the previous table, I couldn’t recall that Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson even participated. Regardless, I do remember the following matches.

1999 – Showdown at Sherwood (Tiger Woods vs. David Duval)

Highlight: #1 (Woods) vs. #2 (Duval).

Won by Woods 2&1.

Woods – $1.1 MM as winner.

Duval – $400K as loser.

Lasting memory: Wondering why night golf couldn’t work after watching the match finishing under the lights.

2000 Battle at Bighorn (Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia)

Highlight: #1 (Woods) vs. New Upstart (Garcia – who finished 2nd to Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship).

Won by Garcia 1 up.

Garcia – $1.1 MM as winner.

Woods – $400K as loser.

Lasting memory: Wondering why Mickelson wasn’t there instead of El Niño.

2001 Battle at Bighorn

(Tiger Woods & Annika Sörenstam vs. David Duval & Karrie Webb)

Highlight: #1 Ranked Male (Woods) & #2 Ranked Female (Sorenstam) vs. #2 Ranked Male (Duval) & #1 Ranked Female (Webb).

Won by Woods & Sorenstam in 19th holes.

Woods/Sorenstam – $1.5 MM shared as winners.

Duval/Webb – $500K shared as losers.

Lasting memory: Tuning out early thinking that Woods and his partner should dominate even though Webb had a higher ranking than Sorenstam. I was only somewhat surprised hearing the next day that Woods/Sorenstam eked out a victory after being down by 2 with 3 to go.


Prior to the eventual 2018 match between Tiger and Phil, I argue that at least five other times would have provided more drama and better viewing.

2002 – Down by 8 strokes after the first two rounds of the 2002 US Open at Bethpage, Mickelson came within 2 strokes of Woods on the final day before Tiger ultimately prevailed. Of note, Mickelson seemed to be the fan favorite despite Tiger’s unquestionable superior talent.

If you’re willing to test your eyes, you’ll be able to see how close Mickelson actually got. Unless you watched, you won’t remember that Lefty missed short putts which could have made it even closer.

2004 – After Phil won his first Major and their horrendous pairing at the Ryder Cup

Their mutual hatred was palpable as they paired up at the 2004 Ryder Cup

2005 – After Phil put the Green Jacket on Tiger for winning the Masters.

2006 – After Tiger returned the favor and put the Green Jacket on Phil for Lefty’s 2nd Masters title in three years.

2009 – Thanksgiving Weekend when Tiger became human.

I’m sure Tiger would have rather spent his Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 playing golf against Phil than avoiding his golf-club-wielding wife after she found out about his extracurricular activities.

As previously admitted, I missed Tiger and Phil’s 2018 Thanksgiving showdown. I watched the “highlights” through replay, but it would be irresponsible for me to describe the event as if I had seen it live. Still, I’ll like to offer a few relevant thoughts.

  • As a play-by-play commentator, Charles Barkley commented, “This is some crappy golf.” Barkley may have the worst swing ever televised, but he unarguably offers the most honest assessment outside of Johnny Miller.
  • The highly promoted side bets and banter between the mic’d-up competitors never materialized. Mickelson certainly can hold his own as a big-time better, but he has trouble walking and talking. On the other hand, Tiger doesn’t have the gambling bug of former friends MJ and Barkley, or the sound bites of current playing partner Donald Trump.
  • Jordan Spieth interrupted his wedding weekend to watch “The Match” with fellow PGA pros Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, and Jason Dufner. Point being, perhaps we should be watching Spieth vs. McIlroy instead.

Shortly after finishing this post, I read that country singer Josh Owen offered an interesting interaction he at Speith’s wedding reception one day after The Match. Specifically, Owen recounted:   

I did give Phil Mickelson a lot of sh!t at Jordan Speith’s wedding. Jordan got married in November and Phil was there the day after he played Tiger. I’d had a few cocktails, and uhhh, I saw him across the room and I was like, ‘I gotta go tell this guy what I think.’

So I walked over to him and I was like ‘Hey, Phil, you owe me f#cking $29.99!’ I was like, ‘For wasting four hours of my life with the sh!tt!est golf I’ve ever seen! You guys hyped this whole thing up about this big match?  You guys couldn’t even make three birdies between the two of you.’ I’m like, ‘I want my $29.99 back and, f#ck, apologize to me for some sh!tty golf.’

And he pulls out a wad out of his thing. And he grabs a hundred, like a hundred-dollar bill. And he’s like, ‘Yea, I won 90,000 of these yesterday.’ He goes, ‘Take a hundred and go f#ck yourself!’

As if I couldn’t like Lefty anymore than I already do. He’s the anti-Palmer, yet has an army every bit as committed. 

  • Turner Broadcasting paid $10 million to broadcast the event and got 750,000 subscriptions at $20 a pop. [Despite Owens’ belief, the intended fee was only $19.99.] The $15 million from those subscriptions would have covered the $10 million broadcasting fee, but Turner had to refund the money due to transmission problems. Eh oh! I have to imagine someone got fired over that one.

Overall, “The Match” offered “crappy” golf, overly-friendly gimmes, and 100% refunded television revenues. Even though I didn’t see it, I can undoubtedly call it a Top 10 Bust.


My family thankfully offers me quick (and unfiltered) criticism of my posts. Without them, I would think that I always provide thoughtful analysis and interesting anecdotes. I apparently missed the mark in this case because they simply concluded that I don’t know how to order a Pay-Per-View event. While I can’t argue with that conclusion, they missed the point. I simply wrote this post for their benefit because I fully understand that few others would appreciate the details.

For them, I offer the following picture showing what I gladly did instead of watching “The Match.”

Unlike some years, the weather was quite mild in 2018.

Just so they know, I would forego ANY sporting event for this family tradition.

Top 10 Busted: The Match (Tiger vs. Phil)