Phil Mickelson finally ended "The Match" with Tiger Woods by knocking in a $9 million 5-foot birdie on the 22nd hole, a contrived 93-yard par 3 that included a tee box set on the practice green so lights could be set up for the players. The birdie followed three playoff pars from both legends (two on the 93-yard hole) after the pair was all square following 18 regulation holes at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.
It almost ended about 90 minutes before the temporary lights and temporary green were set up. Mickelson was 1 up on Woods and had him on the ropes going to the 17th hole, a long par 3. Lefty hit a great approach where a birdie would have closed the match. But of course Woods chipped in from the back of the green to win the hole and pull all square. Mickelson quipped, "You've been doing that crap to me for 20 years, I'm not sure why I'd be surprised now."
"I did not want to have that match end on that hole," said Woods after the match was over.
Both golfers made birdie on the 18th in regulation, went back to the tee and made par on their second time around. Mickelson's par was somewhat heroic. After hitting a good drive, he left himself a fried egg in a green-side bunker. From there he flew his bunker shot and had to two-putt for par from 35 feet.
It took a while for the grounds crew to re-cut a hole on that same 18th green and position players properly on the practice green (!), 93 yards from the cup, where the lights were set up. The the first two attempts at winning the match there, in the dark, were not pretty (both were ugly pars after Woods went over the green off the tee twice). The second ended with a 5-foot (!) concession by Mickelson to Woods after which he said, "I don't want to win like this."
So he won it the old-fashioned way instead -- with a stacked up wedge on his final try and buried putt for the win over Woods and $9 million to boot.
"A day like today is not going to take anything away from [Tiger's] greatness," said Mickelson. "He's the greatest of all time. But to have just a little bit of smack talk for the coming years means a lot to me because I really don't have much on him. He always drops the big picture, and it's the trump card. But to have a day like today, I never thought we'd go to this extra hole. My heart just can't take much more of it."
Woods certainly had his opportunities. On the second playing of No. 18 (the first playoff hole), he missed an 8-foot putt that didn't even touch the hole. He left an 8-foot birdie putt on the final playing of the par 3 short (short!) when a make would have sent the match to a 23rd hole. It was representative of his entire day. Both of their days, really.
Mickelson hit the ball surprisingly well, but neither golfer could make a putt to save his life. At one point, Mickelson told Woods he "willed" one of his birdies from going in, which is actually kind of what it felt like. There were only 11 birdies in 44 total holes played (22 for each player).
Still, there were some fun side bets by both golfers, which saw Mickelson eventually come out in front by $400,000; those will go to a charity of his choice. The biggest of those was a $1 million side bet, which would have gone to either golfer if they had holed out for eagle on the par-4 ninth hole. Neither came close.
Mickelson did hit the ball well throughout. He only trailed for one of the 22 holes and played the better golf (even if his short game was shaky). Woods had a hard right miss going and may have putted even worse than his counterpart. His game looked a little more Ryder Cup than it did 2017-18 PGA Tour season.
The entire day felt a little too rote for what it was -- a $9 million made-for-TV enterprise -- and the trash talk was not as abundant as I was promised it would be. Still, it got fun at the end. The players got quiet (or even more quiet) over the final few holes as the weight of that amount of money (sitting just behind them as they hit tee shots on the 93-yard par 3 finale hole) lingered in the air.
In the end, though, a contrived match got a contrived ending. That doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining at times because it certainly grabbed our attention. But even though Woods lost on the last hole because he went too long too many times, I thought the entire hitting-off-a-practice-green-turned-tee-box thing was a fitting capper to what, at pretty much every turn, was a concept that came up short.
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