Golfing greats Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson to serve up a sorry show in Las Vegas

That Tiger Woods is taking on Phil Mickelson in a winner-takes-all match in Las Vegas today is very apt — the Sin City where anything tacky and vulgar goes now has its own sporting tribute. (AFP)
Updated 23 November 2018

Golfing greats Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson to serve up a sorry show in Las Vegas

  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are playing a one-off match in Las Vegas
  • Up for grabs in the winner-takes-all face-off is $9 million and that is the real problem with this contrived clash

LONDON: That Tiger Woods is taking on Phil Mickelson in a winner-takes-all match in Las Vegas today is very apt — the Sin City where anything tacky and vulgar goes now has its own sporting tribute.
The match-up, created after some playful chat from Mickelson before this year’s Players Championship, has obviously been billed as a clash between two of golf’s greatest players.
No argument there. As “Lefty” said of Woods: “He’s the greatest of all time. I’ve seen him do things with a golf ball that have never been done.” Mickelson, too, with five Majors and 43 PGA titles, can lay claim to being, as Woods in the mutual back-slapping press conference said: “One of the greatest players to ever pick up a golf club.”
What the PR guff and gold-plated nonsense conveniently missed out though is that this is a face-off that is at least 10 years too late. Rather like Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao getting in the ring in 2015 rather than 2009, the public clamor for such a face-off is now almost non-existent.
In their heyday the pair would be in contention for most, if not all, of the big titles and be only too aware that the form of the other was the one obstacle preventing victory. They were huge rivals who, at times, made no attempt to hide their mutual dislike of each other — their relationship at the 2004 Ryder Cup definitely looked more glacial than merely frosty.
Over the past five years the pair have won a combined two titles between them, have become friends and today’s clash is simply a trip down memory lane — Las Vegas being the place where washed-up stars go to earn lots of money in the autumn of their careers singing to people who lap up nostalgia.
Which brings us to the dollar signs. Up for grabs in the winner-takes-all face-off is $9 million and that is the real problem with this contrived clash. The sight of two multi-millionaires playing for such a sizeable sum in a meaningless event neither does them nor sport any favors. The pre-match PR shots of both smiling behind the stacks of cash is a sight they are both likely to end up regretting.
Both have shown some self-awareness since the figure was announced by saying some of the money would be going to their charitable foundations, but one cannot help but feel that the damage has already been done.
They have both claimed that the event will attract new fans to golf, which seems fanciful in the extreme considering no one can buy tickets to watch it on the course — only VIPs and sponsors will see the clash in the flesh — and it is only available on TV via pay-per-view.
In its most purest form sport is a spectacle where, even in these days of eye-watering winner’s checks, it is the trophy rather than the promise of a better bank balance that both athletes and fans are seduced by. Woods vs. Mickelson is the antithesis of this, a tawdry, corporate construct where, as the lack of any fans on the course illustrates, only monied men (and you can bet it will be mostly men) are allowed up close.
What attracts new fans to a sport is thrilling displays of brilliance and bare-faced cheek when it matters, and in front of an audience of millions. Both Tiger and ‘Lefty’ have produced numerous moments of magic down the years so as to not need to take part in this sorry show.
Woods’ recent win at the Tour Championship — his first win in five years — is an obvious case in point. It was a sporting tale of recovery and redemption that no number of staged matches like today’s can even dream of matching.
So forgive us if we yawn and shut our eyes while the two multi-millionaires take part in this poor exhibition. It is too late, too exclusive, too contrived and shining a light on too much of what is bad about modern-day sport for any discerning sport fan to take much of an interest in.


‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Updated 11 July 2020

‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

  • Plan to be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island

DUBAI: When mixed martial arts supremo Dana White first floated his “Fight Island” concept, with its echoes of the Bruce Lee blockbuster “Enter the Dragon” where fighters were drawn into combat at a private getaway, eyebrows were raised.

“‘Fight Island’ is real. It’s a real thing,” said the Ultimate Fighting Championship boss when he announced the plan in April. “The infrastructure’s being built right now, and that’s really going to happen.”

White’s vision will be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

The event will be headlined by a welterweight world title encounter between the Nigerian-American champion Kamaru Usman and Cuban-American challenger Jorge Masvidal.

It’s one of four “Fight Island” cards to be staged without an audience inside an arena on the resort and entertainment island throughout July, kicking off with three world title bouts and a title challenge eliminator.

Usman said during a virtual media event that he had been impressed by what he’d seen since arriving in the UAE on Thursday.

“I’m grateful for everything that’s been done,” said Usman, gunning for the second defense of his title. “All the precautions have been taken. After I go out there on Saturday and get my hand raised I’ll be glad to be heading home COVID-free.”

The UFC has made the move to Abu Dhabi from its Las Vegas base in an effort to isolate its fighters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety has been a major motivator, as has the promoter’s need to keep staging events — and collecting revenue — during a crisis that has shut down or forced massive overhauls to the staging of the world’s major sporting events.

Strict lockdown measures have been imposed on athletes, their entourages, officials, staff and media for the duration of their stay on Yas Island, on a site that has been completely sealed off until the event concludes on July 26.

Tests were taken before people arrived — initial headliner Gilbert Burns of Brazil failed, and stayed home, Masvidal’s coach Mike Brown suffered the same fate — and after landing there has been more testing, and 48 hours in-room quarantine.

“We were able to lock away with some mats and pads in our room and keep training as much as we could,” said Russian welterweight Muslim Salikhov, who fights Brazil’s Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in Sunday’s preliminaries.

“The main thing everyone is saying is that we are here, and we are ready to fight because that’s what we do for a living.”

Abu Dhabi’s executive director of tourism and marketing, Ali Al-Shaiba, said protocols were stringent in the expansive “safe zone,” patrolled by police and expected to house around 2,000 people for the duration of the month-long event. Staff will be tested every 72 hours.