News & Opinion

There’s a better way for Woods-Mickelson sequel

Longtime PGA Tour rivals would do wonders to promote social distancing, but ‘The Match II’ could be so much more. Play it at Augusta National, with David Feherty calling the action, and raise money for the coronavirus fight. Who wouldn’t watch that?

If Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson come together for a sequel to their ill-fated “The Match” from 2018, one thing about the competition should come naturally to them: social distancing.

Woods and Mickelson, the two most visible stars on the PGA Tour for the past 20-plus years, have perfected the art of keeping their distance from each other long before the coronavirus pandemic. Their rivalry runs deep, with Woods leading in Tour victories (82-44) and major championships (15-5).

US Open Championship 2012
Phil Mickelson (left) and Tiger Woods, hardly the best of friends, have waged a strong rivalry during the past 20-plus years on the PGA Tour. Just don’t expect them to lighten up around each other.

But Mickelson can boast about his 22-hole victory in their overhyped winner-take-all $9 million showdown at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving weekend 1½ years ago.

Now, a rematch of “The Match” might be in the works. If so, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the ubiquitous physician who has become one of the faces of the federal government’s response to coronavirus, could point to Woods and Mickelson as ideal examples of social distancing.

In their 2018 Vegas boondoggle, the promised banter between shots was little more than the sound of grass crunching beneath their feet. Except for the first-tee handshake and the end-of-match sendoff, they barely were within shouting distance of each other. Repartee didn’t stand a chance.

Today, of course, that distance would be celebrated as an ideal defense against transmission of the deadly virus.

In a recent tweet, Mickelson acknowledged that a rematch might be in the works. How could such a match be deemed safe?

First, no caddies. I’m not suggesting that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson carry their own clubs, but a couple of souped-up carts with plenty of sponsor presence – think NASCAR – would work. Maybe include a fairway race or two.

Of course, betting would be required, on everything from long drives, greens hit, putts made and the cart races, for starters.

Las Vegas oddsmakers, who have seen their usual spring sports scene come to a halt because of the pandemic, would be eager to set lines on anything live and assuredly would come up with a variety of proposition bets.

Bar any fans or others from attending. That would be ideal for Woods and Mickelson, neither of whom would want the distraction and autograph hounds anyway.

Many golf fans think of Woods and Mickelson as great humanitarians who love to mingle with the common folk, but it’s nothing more than an act for the public. In reality, they would rather bypass the autograph gantlet and head directly to the locker room, or better yet, straight to their courtesy cars.

But any Mickelson-Woods rematch would need to be televised. So, how would a TV crew operate safely within social-distancing guidelines? This is a much easier challenge than it might appear to be. A two-ball match can be broadcast with just a few cameras and a LiveU portable cellular backpack, which allows for live streaming via a small package. Simply assign three or four cameramen, and keep them apart from one another and the players.

Because viewers can’t depend on Woods or Mickelson to hold the audience’s attention, the duties would fall to the commentators to be the stars of the show. If the audience could get some funny and entertaining analysts who would not be muzzled by the network bosses, the telecast could be first-class.

Let David Feherty be himself. The NBC analyst, who also hosts an eponymous show on Golf Channel, could carry the broadcast.

The last piece of the puzzle would be the location. My first choice is Augusta National.

It’s been one year since we’ve seen the azaleas in bloom, and we won’t be able to enjoy them next week after the Masters joined so many other tournaments in being suspended because of coronavirus. So, it’s only right that golf fans get their annual dose of Augusta sooner rather than later. I don’t want to have to wait until the fall, which could be when the Masters is rescheduled, to see the course, with its bright spring colors long since having faded.

Augusta National will be in perfect shape in the spring, and neither Woods nor Mickelson would need a practice round, because both have won there – Woods five times, most recently last spring, and Mickelson three.

Golf needs a distraction – better yet, some action – amid the bleak coronavirus reports, and the TV networks would fall all over one another trying to get the rights to a live sporting event.

Use the opportunity to raise money, in telethon style, for the hospitals and first responders who have led the fight against the pandemic.

So, let’s get behind it. After all, what else have you got to do these days?

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