The match — er, The Match — featuring Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas already features an enormous $9 million, winner-take-all purse for the 18-hole match on Black Friday.
However, that’s not the only action the two all-time greats will have when they play at one of the most elusive and exclusive golf courses in the public consciousness. Tiger and Phil are able to initiate side bets on particular shots or skills at any time during the match, with the money coming out of their own pockets and the profits going to the charity of the winner’s choice.
Mickelson got the betting underway early on Tuesday during the pre-match news conference, when he “goaded” Woods into a $200,000 bet on the first hole.
Mickelson: So I’ve thought a lot about this, and there are spots out on the course that are some great spots for a little challenge. The challenges are coming directly out of our pockets, OK? I feel like first hole is a great hole for me. In fact, I’m willing to risk $100,000 to say I’ll birdie the first hole. That’s how good I feel heading into this match. You don’t have to take it. You don’t have to take it at all.
Woods: So you think you can make birdie on the first hole?
Mickelson: I know I’m going to make birdie on the first hole.
Woods [to laughter of the media gallery]: Double it.
Mickelson: Did you see how I baited him like that? Yes! Yes! 200 [thousand] says I birdie the first hole.
Woods: All right. There is water down the left. He likes to lose his golf balls to the left. It’s that little flair out that he hits.
Mickelson: See, here is what you’re missing …
Woods [interrupting]: These are things he hasn’t really thought about.
Mickelson: I’m going to hit a 2-iron in the fairway, and I’m a great short-iron player. In fact, one the best.
Woods: If he hits his 2-iron hot, which he sometimes does, hit it right and hot and he’ll be up against that tree and he’s blocked out, so he can’t spin the ball coming into that flag. Yeah.
Mickelson: And that’s how I was able to bait you. [laughter] Yeah, first hole. $200,000 I birdie.
So, there you have it. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will have $200,000 on Mickelson making birdie on the first hole. Did Mickelson make a good bet? No. He objectively made a horrible bet. As Woods described, there’s water left and crap to the right, and Mickelson hits the fairway only about 50 percent of the time. On top of that, while Mickelson is a leader on the PGA Tour in par-4 birdie percentage, he did so at a 20 percent clip. That’s a 1-in-5 chance — at best — of Mickelson making 3. In other words, Mickelson shouldn’t be giving Tiger straight 1-to-1 action that he birdies the first hole. Rather, Mickelson should get $200,000 if he birdies and Tiger should get $40,000 if Phil doesn’t.
Oh well. Perhaps part of the allure of the side bets will be the players not really thinking about odds and just thinking in terms of entertainment.