Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: The Match Betting Guide
With the PGA Tour off for the weekend, golf fans are gifted a worthy dessert to the Thanksgiving feast with The Match, a head-to-head match-play contest between two titans in the sport, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The winner will collect a cool $9 million for his efforts, with infinite side betting and prop action possibilities along the way for both the contestants and viewers alike.
The Match could be a glimpse into the future of live sports betting. Everything from "Will Tiger hit the fairway on this tee?" to "Over/Under 18.5 feet distance to hole on Phil's approach shot" to "Will Tiger fist pump if he makes this putt?" could be on the table. With the lag time between shots and the sheer volume of betting opportunities, golf is uniquely positioned to cater to the betting public and, of course, to the advantageous bookmaker.
First and foremost is the head-to-head odds to actually win the darn thing. Tiger opened as the favorite on the FanDuel Sportsbook and currently sits with a -230 line opposite Mickelson's +190. Let's break down the matchup and see which side holds the value.
Shadow Creek Golf Course awaits the pair, a pristine oasis in the Las Vegas desert designed by Tom Fazio. The course measures 7,260 yards and features a standard par-72 layout, though it will likely play a bit longer this week. Because the course is not on the regular PGA Tour circuit, speculators should look for similar characteristics in other courses and apply performance at those courses to determine who fits Shadow Creek better.
Three courses stand out: Conway Farms, Quail Hollow, and TPC Summerlin. Nothing too complicated here -- Conway and Quail are both Fazio designs, and Summerlin is also in the Las Vegas outskirts. Conway and Summerlin play on the easy side. Quail Hollow, on the other hand, is routinely one of the more difficult courses on Tour as host of the Wells Fargo Championship, and it rated out as the most difficult course of 2017 when it was bolstered for the PGA Championship.
Neither golfer has ever played the Shriners (TPC Summerlin), so that one can be thrown out. Tiger finished 11th at the 2013 BMW Championship hosted by Conway Farms and just 55th at this past year's Wells Fargo, though the poor finish was due almost entirely to a shaky putting week (gained 7.4 strokes tee to green but lost 5.8 putting, per Fantasy National). He also won the event in 2007. Overall, his long layoff hurts him here as he just doesn't have very many recent events played to gauge fit with the course.
Mickelson, meanwhile, has terrific form at Quail Hollow. He was 5th this past May at the Wells Fargo, and though he missed the cut at the 2017 PGA Championship there, his finishes there from 2013 to 2016 are 3, T11, T4, T4.
Match Play History
Surprisingly, the two have never faced off head-to-head in a singles match. Neither Woods nor Mickelson showed particularly well at this year's Ryder Cup: in the Sunday singles, Tiger went down 2 & 1 to Jon Rahm and Phil fell 4 & 2 to the white-hot Francesco Molinari.
According to AdamSarson.com, Mickelson holds a career match-play record of 33-25-4, while Tiger is 50-17-2. However, that record is heavily accumulated by pre-nine iron-through-the-back-window Tiger Woods. Dating back to the 2010 Ryder Cup, Woods has just nine match-play results to his name and is an underwhelming 4-4-1 in them. Mickelson, meanwhile, has been to the WGC-Match Play each of the past two years and has a much larger sample of results since the same 2010 Ryder Cup marker. In that span, Phil is 13-8-1.
Looking at Tiger's career record and results can be deceiving. The extended period when he was head and shoulders above the rest of the world skews any analysis of his overall performance. He is out of practice in this format and must be downgraded despite his dominant career record.
Slight Advantage: Mickelson
To put it bluntly, Mickelson was terrible at the end of last season. He was dead last at the Tour Championship (out of 30 golfers) and close to that the week prior at the BMW Championship (58th out of 68). He managed top-15 finishes in the first two legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but before that, he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He did have a few blips of success early in the year, including three straight top-10's in February before winning the WGC-Mexico the first week of March.
That lack of consistency marred his season, and it is possible the grind was too much for the 48-year-old. In his past 24 rounds on Tour, he is 139th in total strokes gained and lost strokes in all facets of the game except around the green, according to Fantasy National.
Tiger was remarkably consistent. He missed just two cuts all year and had only two other finishes worse than 32nd. He had eight top 10s on the season, culminating with his exhilarating win at the Tour Championship. He was seventh in total strokes gained in his last 24 rounds, including fourth in strokes gained: approach.
Big Advantage: Tiger
This is closer than it seems. Mickelson is one of the 10 best golfers of all time, but his resume pales in comparison to his opponent's. Tiger was the better golfer last year in his comeback tour, and he managed his schedule far better than Mickelson did. Both have had plenty of time to rest up, though, and Mickelson's game suits the course and format.
Tiger has not played since his listless Ryder Cup performance on the heels of an emotional 80th career win. Mickelson stunk to close the season but made an appearance during the fall swing and finished T17 at the Safeway.
Anything can happen in a match-play event, and given that Mickelson checks a few boxes this week and he's a sizeable underdog, the betting value lies with the lefty.
Bet: Phil Mickelson +190