LAS VEGAS — Phil Mickelson won “The Match” on Friday, finally outlasting Tiger Woods in an exhausting $9 million made-for-television battle between the pair to clinch some bragging rights over his rival as well as the huge cash prize.
Mickelson played the better golf throughout and withstood a late moment of magic from Woods, before eventually prevailing in a floodlit chip-and-putt shootout on the 22nd hole as darkness fell upon Shadow Creek.
Woods appeared on the brink of defeat when he entered the 17th hole 1-down in the match-play clash, then sent his tee shot to the back of the green, leaving himself a tougher putt than Mickelson.
However, with the kind of drama reminiscent of his run of dominance more than a decade ago, Woods chipped in a 22-footer from the fringe of the green and Mickelson missed to square things up once more.
Mickelson missed a putt for the win their first time through 18, then Woods was wide from 8 feet on the first extra hole. At that point, the match became a shortened playoff, aiming at the 18th green again but from just 93 yards away. Mickelson saw two more chances at victory evade him, including a simple-looking 6-footer, before, at last, a perfect chip to 4 feet allowed him to drain the clincher and pump his fist in triumph.
Woods, the 14-time major champion, rarely discovered his best form, and had his 48-year-old opponent managed to find any kind of putting rhythm, Mickelson may have run away with the match.
Instead, Woods, who led just once (after winning the 12th) before his late burst, stuck around just long enough for his championship instinct to surface at last and provide what eventually became a thrilling and breathless finish.
For all the intrigue of being able to listen to the mic’d-up players and without the natural noise of a championship event, it was a tense affair throughout, with neither player able to produce much in the way of sparkling moments of inspiration.
Both men seemed to be conscious that their every word would be heard by a television audience and while they were comfortable talking smack to each other at the news conference promoting the match, the chatter was largely constrained to pleasant small talk once things got under way.
No tickets were sold to the public but there were around 700 in attendance, with connections to the sponsors or broadcasters.
A series of charity wagers were also placed between the players, most frequently taking the form of closest-to-the-pin bets on the par threes, with Mickelson getting the better of the side action, raising $400k for his nominated cause.
Distributed on pay per view with a $19.95 price tag it attracted its share of critics, from fellow players and the public. Turner ultimately gave away the online B/R stream for free after issues with the purchasing mechanism.
The match itself was winner-take-all, with Mickelson claiming the entire purse, which was raised by sponsorship and broadcast revenues.