In almost every way, this week’s US$9 million showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is to be a wild departure from golf’s traditions. In its embrace of on-course gambling, the broadcast might actually bring it closer.
Throughout the 18-hole showdown, Woods and Mickelson will be making various side bets, or “challenges,” with one another.
For example, can Woods save par from that bunker, or can Mickelson sink that putt?
Unlike the prize purse, the money wagered is to come out of the players’ pockets and the winnings would be donated to charity.
The first bet has already been placed: US$200,000 that Mickelson will birdie the first hole.
Both golfers on Tuesday discussed their familiarity with gambling with Bloomberg Television.
Mickelson said side bets are good for training by simulating pressure.
Woods called it “an integral part of the game.”
“We’ve always embraced it, Phil and I, in how we’ve taken chances on a golf course,” Woods said.
“Whether it’s a weekend round with our buddies or a practice round out on tour, we’re always trying to have a little bit of an edge and have a bit of fun out there,” he said.
Tomorrow’s event, approved by the PGA Tour, will cost US$19.99 to view and is to feature a number of new concepts, including coverage from drones, microphones on both players at all times and no fans on the course.
Held at a Las Vegas golf course owned by MGM Resorts International, the event is also to embrace gambling in other ways.
The telecast will feature live odds on screen and some fans will be able to bet shot by shot, Mickelson said.
That experience will give viewers “a glimpse of what the future of watching sports will be,” he said.
Golf is expected to benefit greatly from more widespread legal gambling, now free for US states to legalize in the wake of a US Supreme Court decision in May.
The sport could use the increased viewership and its hole-by-hole nature lends itself well to live wagers, which are becoming the preferred type of bets.
The PGA Tour, like all major US sports leagues, is in the process of figuring out how much it wants to embrace the new industry.
It is also clearly something the players do among themselves.
“Wagering is part of what we do in the game of golf,” Woods said.
“It’s just enough to make it uncomfortable, or make you think about that one particular shot, or the next shot. That’s what’s going to be the fun part for everyone viewing, they’re going to realize it’s a lot like what they do at their home club,” he added.
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