With $204 million in combined PGA Tour earnings and 19 majors between them, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- or is it Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods? -- have always been rivals. And on Friday at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas beginning at 3 p.m. ET, they will play for $9 million of somebody else's money (plus a little side cash of their own, which will surely add up throughout the day).
There are a number of different ways to feel about this event. Maybe all of them at once. It is equal parts contrived, intriguing, confusing and exhilarating. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the whole thing, and that will likely continue well after the 18 holes of match play have concluded.
Regardless of my own personal feelings, though, the match is happening, and the money is real. Let's take a look at what's at stake, how it will go down and everything else you need to know about the festivities on Friday in Vegas.
How it came about
Dave Shedloski had a great piece on it that provides a ton of the background, but Phil Mickelson also addressed the question on Tuesday at a press conference.
"We were originally going to partner up," Mickelson said. "I know that we wanted to and would like to have a chance to partner up again in the Ryder Cup and show that we can play well together. There was (thought) of maybe doing that and having a partnership with some younger guys.
"When it was brought or talked about amongst [David] Levy (president of Turner) and some of the television guys, they really wanted us to go head and head, which I always enjoy going head to head. I haven't had great success, but I always enjoy it. It kind of took off from there."
What's at stake
There is $9 million on the table, but that's not Tiger or Phil's money. That's money that has been provided by Turner (according to this report), which will turn around and try to get enough $19.99 pay-per-view buys and sponsors to also make some money. According to Mickelson, the pair will put up their own cash in side bets that will eventually go to charity.
"Well, we're going to have multiple side challenges that are going to be in to the six to seven figures that will be coming out of our own pockets," Mickelson said.
"But this event needs to be for a number that makes us nervous and makes us uncomfortable, and it definitely is. Because of that, I think both the $9 million that we're playing for long with the hundreds of thousands and ultimately a million or two that we're playing for in side challenges throughout the match, I think it's enough for us both to feel, be uncomfortable and to feel the pressure."
Woods and Mickelson will play 18 holes of match play, which is probably good for Mickelson, who is liable to make a triple bogey at any point during the match. That means each hole gets scored individually with the winner of each receiving a point. Whoever is on top at the end with the most holes won is the winner.
Woods is a fairly big -200 favorite to win the event, much to Mickelson's chagrin. "So strategically what happens here in Vegas, and I don't need to tell you, is the smart money tries to fudge the line and then they load up," Lefty said. "Now that it's right where they want it, the line will come significantly down."
Both players will wear microphones, and there will also be on-course interviews, live percentages of players pulling off specific shots (which will be fascinating when paired with the on-course wagering aspect) and drone footage that we don't normally see.
"I think for me it's the player interaction, but also more the caddie-player interaction that the fans normally aren't privy to," said Woods when he was asked about which aspect of this production will be the most unique. "There are a lot of things like (caddie) Joey [LaCava] and I talk about going from ... tee box to the fairway, where the flag is, what am I thinking about as far as leaving it."
That part is certainly going to be intriguing and especially so if either starts dropping some expletive-laden trash talk.
Shadow Creek rundown
Shadow Creek is a Tom Fazio design owned by MGM and does not look like it belongs in Las Vegas. With myriad water hazards and a topography that belies its location, this won't really feel like desert golf.
"What (Fazio has) done on this property is spectacular," Mickelson said. "This course has always rated one of the highest in the world. It's a perfect spot for us. We were able to bring this event to Las Vegas is play it on a world-class golf course. The score will be relevant to conditions and wind and temperature, but I think we both have it in mind that this is a sprint and not a marathon. We're not playing four days; we're playing one. We've got to come out and fire. There is a lot of risk-reward here, a lot of water, a lot of trouble, but there is also a lot of the birdies opportunities.
"I think the person that wins is probably going to shoot 7- or 8-under par, but could very well be a lot less based on the conditions."
No tickets were sold to the event so everybody viewing.
There has been a lot of speculation that this event is simply the beginning of a years-long franchise that only Woods (and Mickelson) could carry. I'm fascinated that idea and everything that could unfold in the future. Many questions remain and the future will be largely defined by how many PPV buys this gets. For all the numbers we'll see on Friday on our televisions, that one remains the most important.
"We're hopeful that this provides an insight into the sport that is a glimpse into the future where people want more," Mickelson said. "If that happens, great. We very well could have some more. If people don't like it or want it, then it's probably a one and done. I think it's a unique, special opportunity to see sides of athletes and sports performance you've been craving as a viewer and haven't had a chance to see. I think it's going to be well received."
Which golfing legend earns bragging rights and a hefty $9 million prize on Friday? And what critical stat gives one player a huge edge? Visit SportsLine now to see who you can bank on to win Phil vs. Tiger, all from the model that nailed the winners of four golf majors, and find out.