The Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelsen event occurred on Black Friday. Readers of this blog that intended to pay $19.95 to watch these two duke it out for $9M (winner take-all) were few and far between. Some brilliant marketing executive at AT&T conceived this idea for pay per view and the idea was only $14M in revenue or 700,000 viewers were required to have this event break even. The Match never generated much interest and might have made the fourth page (if at all) on the Sports pages of the local newspaper. Woods and Mickelsen tried a little “trash-talking” during the weeks preceding the event which was largely ignored. Golf simply is not a Pay Per View event and you simply cannot generate the type of animosity required to advance the publicity to watch this stuff. After all, it’s golf-not dueling, or pistols at 30 feet–it’s a gentle game requiring significant skill and precision that most of us that play the game still don’t understand. It’s not Billy Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs which was probably the most infamous type of event of this type (and wasn’t pay per view). You might recall the various Skins games that were played on Thanksgiving weekend by the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Watson and others that were highly entertaining or at least you could take a nap after food coma from turkey and stuffing leftovers. No one will remember who won any of those matches but they were entertaining and laid back–a little bit like watching MLB Spring Training in Arizona. The stakes of winner take all were designed to draw interest but these two players have enough money that they could just have easily been playing a $5 nassau. There is so much ice water and scar tissue from their outstanding professional achievements that money has no bearing on the outcome. I believe interest might have been far greater if the winnings were donated to charity especially in the wake of the California fires. The two guys created some six figure side bets with their own money with the proceeds to go to charity and this indeed was a nice gesture.
I was on an Air New Zealand flight returning from a glorious vacation in the northern part of the country. I played golf at Kauri Hills almost every day including 2 rounds with the professional. We left at 8PM Friday and arrived at 11AM Friday in San Francisco theoretically in time to pluck down the $19.95 to watch the Match. I didn’t give it one single thought and couldn’t even remember that it was on. The event seems to have been a “yawn” for the most part. They both didn’t play very well and missed a number of makeable putts–Mickelsen endured and won the Match on a makeshift extra hole (made for TV) of 93 yards–Mickelsen’s victory clearly was not expected as the sponsors presented him with a victory belt that would only fit around Tiger’s waist. (oops!). It was all in good fun and they both enjoyed the competition. AT&T–not so much–technical problems prevented potential buyers from connecting and AT&T, Comcast and Direct TV had to show the event for free–revenue-$0–expenses $14M—loss $14M and probably a few executives at AT&T. Golf simply isn’t ready or viable for Pay Per View. Of course, the sponsors labeled the event a “big success” so I’m sure we’ll see more of this. Fortunately I don’t think it will detract people from the game of golf but I doubt it will draw people to the game.
If you really want to see a good golf match, review the Open Championship two years ago when Henrik Stensen bested Mickelsen at Royal Troon on Sunday. Spectacular golf was played that day by both guys in a mano a mano style that was riveting and exciting in a major championship setting. If you want to take a nap after a heavy meal, get your hands on videos of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf presentations from matches played by some legends such as Nicklaus, Palmer, Casper, Player and many others in the 1960’s.
I don’t know if this event will be replayed on any of these wonderful cable systems–Well, I probably wouldn’t watch it anyway.