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Tiger vs. Phil: Breaking down ‘The Match’ and picking a winner

The Showdown at Shadow Creek between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson takes place on Black Friday in Las Vegas amid a very crowded sports calendar. The official billing is “Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil” (broadcast begins at 2 p.m. EST, tee-off at 3), which will be available for $19.99 on pay-per-view.

This will be a traditional 18-hole match with the winner pocketing around $9 million, but also will feature the players making side bets such as longest drive, closest to the pin, and a $200,000 wager on whether Mickelson will birdie the first hole.

No tickets have been sold to the public and the gallery will be limited to invited guests. While golf fans are used to watching special events over the holidays, such as the old Skins Game competitions, it remains to be seen whether this event can capture that same interest. Is it too little, too late for it finally happen?

The Course

Shadow Creek Golf Course is about 15 miles north of the Las Vegas Strip. The Tom Fazio design opened in 1990 and originally was under the ownership of Steve Wynn before being turned over to its current owner, MGM Resorts International. Fazio did a renovation in 2008, and the current course record is held by Dustin Johnson at 65. Under the previous setup, Tiger Woods and Fred Couples shared the course record of 60.

Originally Shadow Creek was limited to hosting Wynn and his invited guests, but is now open to all MGM Resorts International property guests for a greens fee of $500, including round-trip limousine and club rentals.

It essentially is a forest smack dab in the middle of a desert. The organizers clearly are hoping the match reaches the signature 18th, a 564-yard, par 5, which features an elevated tee and is the ultimate risk versus reward hole. Both the tee shot and the second shot force a water carry, and even if you make it a three-shot hole, you still have to make it over the drink to a long, yet narrow green. Golf Digest listed Shadow Creek at No. 5 in its ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses last year, and by all accounts this should be a tremendous venue.

The betting

When this event was first announced in August, Woods was installed as a -135 favorite and Mickelson was a +110 underdog. After Woods’ win at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, the price got as high as Woods -250 to Mickelson’s +200. It has now come back to a -200/+170 split at Westgate Superbook USA.

“The current betting is 73 percent of the tickets and 62 percent of money bet on Phil,” according to Jeff Sherman, Senior VP of Risk Management at the Westgate. It isn’t surprising to see this split considering neither player really comes into this event in any form. Woods has not played since the Ryder Cup and Mickelson has played once.

“It’s just the price. People would rather bet $100 to win $175 on Phil than lay $200 to win $100,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill US, where the action is a little closer to 50/50.

If the betting interest is any indication, this event looks to be a bit disappointing.

“This event has drawn less than one percent of the handle of the Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor fight last summer,” said Sherman. Nevertheless, Sherman and the Westgate also are offering several props on the match. Woods is -170/+145, for example, to lead after nine holes. If you are a bit of a conspiracy theorist and think these two may work or finagle this match into extra holes, the Yes on the match being all square through 18 is +700 while the No is -1100.

Prediction

In full disclosure, I have not wagered on this event and more than likely will not due to so many unknowns, but I would go with Phil to win here. You would have to think he’s always the more motivated of the two in a head-to-head and he seemingly has been the more active of the two in promoting the event — plus he always has been considered the second banana in the Tiger era. Notice I said the Tiger era and not the Phil era.

Perhaps this event should’ve been held 10 years ago or one month from now on Christmas Eve, which any oddsmaker or sports bettor will tell you is the deadest sports day of the year.

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