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Pay for Tiger-Phil golf match or watch paint dry?

Updated November 21, 2018 - 3:44 pm

I thought about playing the role of contrarian, of discovering (fabricating) all the reasons this Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson golf duel is a good thing and worth your hard-earned $19.99, rather than fighting those Black Friday lines for the last deal on a big screen.

But in the end — or five seconds after considering the option — I couldn’t.

Although if you tell me Mickelson is instead playing Bill Walters over 18 holes and the wily gambler is packing a few Ping G400 Max drivers in his bag, well, that would be must-watch television.

I don’t have to tell you who Las Vegas would be cheering for most there. It wouldn’t be the golfer who made nearly $1 million after Walters told him in 2012 to buy Dean Foods stock, reportedly used the profits to cover gambling debts with Walters, was named in a federal lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission, agreed to repay the money and never faced charges.

Walters, meanwhile, is serving time for insider trading at a minimum-security prison camp in Florida.

Woods against Mickelson in this type of setting is far too easy to ridicule and has rightly been mocked by countless folks who cover the game, a competition of aging stars in which the winner will reportedly pocket $9 million of a sponsor’s money.

Some of the winnings, along with additional money from side bets made by the golfers during the match (there is already one on the line for $200,000), will reportedly go to selected charities.

All of it should. One hundred percent. Every last cent of what is a money grab in its truest form by everyone involved.

At least then, something good comes of it.

Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao was five years too late. This match is twice that.

I’m not even sure it would have made sense 10 years ago, but at least then Woods and Mickelson probably wouldn’t have feigned this suddenly chummy relationship, which would be uncomfortable to watch if it weren’t, as with everything in this promotion, so contrived.

Beyond the fact that nobody with a clue believes this is winner-take-all — a nice little narrative Capital One is pushing as title sponsor — here’s my main issue among a hundred others with this: Mostly, it’s not as much a sham as it is sad.

If there were really even a hint of using this to promote golf at all, they wouldn’t be staging it at such an exclusive tract as Shadow Creek and not allowing the public to attend. It wouldn’t be pay-per-view. It wouldn’t include a gallery of just VIPs and invited guests. It wouldn’t smell of such wealth and opulence and greed.

Why not find a public course in one of the nation’s most disadvantaged areas and open the gates for all to come and watch for free, for children who would otherwise never have a chance to be so close to golfing royalty to stand nearby as Woods and Mickelson hack it around? Why not make the matchup, silly as it is, a vehicle by which golf is celebrated in an inclusive manner, and I’m not talking about charging people to watch from their couch.

Who will watch?

“The part I can’t understand is that both players don’t see how cheesy this is,” said Tod Leonard, longtime golf writer at the San Diego Union-Tribune, who has chronicled the careers of Woods and Mickelson for decades. “It isn’t helping their brands or legacies. It’s certainly not helping golf. I don’t believe for one second the financial part of it. They’re both getting something out of this and probably a lot.

“They say it’s to help promote the game but then stage it at a place 99 percent of those watching couldn’t even afford green fees at and then don’t let anyone but select people in to watch. If anything, my disdain for this has grown. If you would ever see me at this, I’d have my arm in a sling, because my boss would have broken it for me to be there.”

I’m sure a faction of people will pay the $19.99, and yet this might be the greatest witness test to Woods’ television draw. Nobody in golf history — and few in sports — has ever moved the ratings needle like him, and yet, if I had a choice to purchase this spectacle or sit and watch paint dry for three hours, well, someone find me a can of Behr tinted lilac.

Or, better yet, find a way for Walters to receive a day pass from prison and have him face Mickelson.

Heck, I’d pay $49.99 to watch that.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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