In my last blog, about the aftermath of the Ryder Cup, I mentioned the upcoming Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson head-to-head and said that “when more than one newspaper columnist derided their upcoming $9 million Thanksgiving weekend shoot-out in Las Vegas as a match-up of has-beens, I think they were missing the point”…well, I stick by that, but it seems Tiger, Phil and just about everybody involved with the event (which is in fact, at least reputedly, for $10 million of their own money) has been working hard to do it down.
Their encounter at Shadow Creek in the Nevada desert has now been set for Friday November 23, the day after Thanksgiving. It has been announced that it will be shown in the US on Turner Sports. At a price of $24.99! Justin Thomas tweeted: “Love TW and Phil to death..but there’s a 0% chance I order that. (And it’s not that he couldn’t afford it!) As Sports Illustrated noted, pay-per-view is mostly a phenomenon for televised boxing, when someone is trying to win a world title. “Tiger and Phil are playing for what, exactly? Pride? These guys have won a combined 19 majors…have a combined net worth of over a billion dollars.”
There’s more. Or rather there’s less. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has revealed that there will be no paying spectators. Apparently, the only people watching on the property will be invited VIPs and corporate sponsors. If the idea had been to generate something even approaching a Ryder Cup-type atmosphere (although perhaps best not to refer to that given Woods and Mickelson went a combined 0-6 at Le Golf National a fortnight ago), they couldn’t have gone about this in a worse fashion. It’s probably going to look like the golf equivalent of one of those Italian football matches where no one is watching so you feel like asking “why should I?” I’ve heard of keeping politics out of sport but not encouraging spectators to keep away, too.
It may become a moot point whether the number of people in attendance is larger or smaller than the size of the TV audience. (A bit like those low-key Serie A games now that Eleven Sports has nicked the UK rights off Sky.) Finally, talk of the whole show taking place under floodlights has been canned. At least that might have brought an appealing element of comparative novelty, but not any longer. Anyhow, we shall see what happens. Or, perhaps more likely, we won’t.
Sticking with desert golf, the European Tour will stage its first-ever golf tournament in Saudi Arabia next year, from January 31 to February 3. Among the competitors so far signed up to compete are the world No. 1, Dustin Johnson; the current Masters champion, Patrick Reed; the victorious 2018 European Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn; plus Paul Casey and more. The tournament will take place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, situated on the country’s Red Sea coastline. Given recent events in Istanbul, I would not anticipate a flood of journalists applying for accreditation.
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