Mickelson-Woods match is contrived, goofy golf joke

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The shopping free-for-all that is Black Friday arrives this year on Nov. 23.

Red, White and Blue Friday for American golf comes nearly two months before that, when the 42nd Ryder Cup matches begin Sept. 28 in Paris.

That day, if U.S. captain Jim Furyk’s wild-card picks go as expected, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will wear their country’s colors and tee it up in the always tense and usually entertaining competition against Europe.

The Ryder Cup matters, just as the major championships do. Careers are defined. Ask Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia. Legacies are established. Talk to Justin Leonard about that.

We care because the motivation and the emotions are genuine.

Woods and Mickelson know that better than anybody, which is why this sham of a golf match that they’ve put together for Las Vegas at Shadow Creek, likely on the day after Thanksgiving, is both laughable and insulting.

Black Friday, all right. For golf.

On the last weekend in September, anybody can turn on their television to see the roles Mickelson and Woods will play in the team drama — though Furyk is far too wise to repeat Hal Sutton’s blunder of 2004 when he paired the two. They barely spoke and were beaten twice on the first day.

Then in November, the players, their agents and TV executives want us to fork over money (price tag unknown) for a pay-per-view broadcast to watch goofy (because it’s Phil), forced banter while they play 18 meaningless holes for a supposed winner’s take of $9 million.

I say supposed, because there’s so much that seems disingenuous about this thing that I’m not sure what to believe.

This is so phony that the original web poster for it had Tiger swinging a left-handed driver. These promoters really know their golf.

How did this even get on the drawing board? Probably not the way it’s been portrayed, as some off-the-cuff locker room needling between the two that grew into something more.

More likely, some suits posed the idea to two aging stars who certainly have a lot of cash to gain and nothing to lose, other than some respect and dignity.

Then the concept got shopped around, like a homeless sitcom, though the big networks apparently wouldn’t touch it — so it ends up as pay-per-view because somebody found some suckers at AT&T and Turner Sports.

Pay-per-view! Outrageous Laughable. That’s what I’ve heard from every corner of golf.

Phil and Tiger have appeared a combined 34 times on network television this year. In May, they played the first two rounds of the Players Championship together; neither one broke par and Woods smoked Mickelson by seven shots.

But we’re supposed to care about this because they’re suddenly buddy-buddy and thought this would be fun.

“How many times have we all purchased fights?” Woods rationalized.

Yes, Tiger, to watch people who have trained for months, who might spill blood, who might lose consciousness, pummel each other for a real belt.

You and Phil promise blood, or at least something more interesting than a longest drive competition (or is it crookedest?) and maybe I’m in.

There was talk early on that the Hall of Famers could put up their own money to truly make it interesting, but that was never going to happen (Phil might; Tiger, never), and even the $9 million figure now is curious.

The PGA Tour probably had a say, considering the prize for winning its season-ending playoff is $10 million. They don’t want to show up a guy who actually earned his money through a year’s worth of play with some Silly Season thing.

Since the official announcement last week, Mickelson finally joined Twitter and we’re now having to endure “trash talk.” When some fan on Saturday yelled during Mickelson’s shot that it was better than Woods’, Phil replied mid-flight, “Oh, it is.”

Headlines were splashed on websites desperate for hits.

Look, these guys are having fun with it, and there’s no real harm in that. But it’s the end game that is so nauseating.

Mickelson has said we’re going to get to see both men “be a little more real.” This, from two guys who for more than 20 years had no interest in even playing practice rounds together. They traveled in their own circles and were just fine with that.

If you want to see Phil at his most “real,” then follow him with a camera when he’s betting wads of cash with Charley Hoffman and having lunch at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

Woods said this week, “We’re going to have fun doing something that’s never been done before.”

In fact, there is nothing original about it. Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf debuted in 1961. There were 26 Skins Games and various “Battles” under the lights. Golfers have worn microphones for nearly as long as they’ve existed.

Even the name — The Match — is pilfered from the excellent Mark Frost book.

The vibe being spun is that of a buildup to a title fight in Vegas, but the tale on the tape for these guys at the moment is so flimsy it could be measured with the Scotch variety. Between them, they have one PGA Tour win over the past five years.

Woods, 42, wasn’t playing great when talk of the match first started, though he certainly took interest in his comeback to a new level with his second-place finish in the PGA Championship.

Mickelson, 48, won in Mexico in March to break a nearly half-decade drought, but doesn’t have a top-10 finish since the Masters. He is ranked 22nd in the world, four spots ahead of Woods.

They both have no idea where their drives are going much of the time, but maybe that’s a selling point for entertainment value.

The quality of the play doesn’t matter, of course, if enough people buy into the supposed treat of watching Woods and Mickelson act like regular dudes on the golf course. If you think you’re going to see that, then you’re probably a card-carrying member of “Bachelor Nation.”

Not a single person I’ve talked to in or outside of golf is admitting they’ll pay even 5 bucks. As one PR friend suggested, maybe the suits will get desperate and throw in a coupon for a dozen balls.

Don’t fall for it. Whatever they ask, don’t pay it. Don’t watch it. Don’t encourage more of this nonsense.

Here’s an idea: Play golf on Black Friday. It’ll be cheaper and healthier than the mall or The Match.