Martin Dempster: Woods-Mickelson duel is a recipe for disaster

The big-money match between Phil Mickelson, left, and Tiger Woods is more likely to damage golf than enhance it. Picture: Getty.
The big-money match between Phil Mickelson, left, and Tiger Woods is more likely to damage golf than enhance it. Picture: Getty.
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A complete and utter non-event. That is my verdict on the $9 million money match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson set to take place in Las Vegas over the Thanksgiving weekend in the United States at the end of November.

Who really cares about what happens in the one-off head-to-head affair? Once upon a time, maybe, at the peak of their careers and there seemed to be little love for each other, but not now.

Yes, of course, Woods has given golf a massive boost by the way he has performed this year after it seemed his career could have been over. He admitted last week that he had said at the champions’ dinner at The Masters last year that he thought he “was done” with the game prior to spinal fusion surgery.

For him to have contended, therefore, in the last two majors was fantastic for the sport and, if you doubt that, then just ask anyone who was out on the course at Carnoustie over the weekend in the Open Championship about the buzz that Woods created by getting himself back in the mix in a major.

Next year’s Masters now can’t come quickly enough and it’s at Augusta National, for example, that a proper head-to-head between Woods and Mickelson would be something you could get excited about and feel it could actually serve a proper purpose in helping to grow the game.

Yes, it might be good for television and the pair being mic’d up will provide a different perspective from a normal event. Believe me, there was a time when it wouldn’t have been worth listening to a word uttered by Woods but, in all fairness, he has lightened up considerably.

The winner-takes-all element may appeal to some people but, if repeated on a regular basis, this sort of match is more likely to damage golf than enhance it in any way. Gambling on matches like this is a recipe for disaster, in my 
opinion.

When you’re a born winner like Padraig Harrington, it must have hurt like hell when a chance to claim victory in the Czech Masters slipped from his grasp on Sunday. His reaction to that disappointment, though, was the mark of someone with real class.

“Well done,” he wrote on Twitter to Andrea Pavan, the man who overtook him over the closing few holes in Prague to claim a maiden European Tour triumph. “You played great golf down the stretch but also you were an easy and sporting partner to play with. Make time to enjoy your success.”

Just think about that. Not only was the three-time major winner gracious in defeat but he also expressed a sentiment that Pavan will have taken on board. You hear too many players get towards the end of their careers saying they didn’t take enough time to savour early successes and, let’s face it, that first one can often be the most important of all.

Harrington, a certain future Ryder Cup captain, wasn’t alone in being a credit to his sport in the Czech Republic. Eddie Pepperell, who is a cult figure on the European Tour through his thought-provoking blogs and insightful and often witty posts on social media, gave a fan his lob wedge during the final round.

If that had been to a young kid, it would still have been a great thing to do but it was to an adult and Pepperell’s reasoning was an example of golf having a number of players around at the moment who are taking things to a new level in terms of being outstanding ambassadors for the sport.

“(The fan) told me my ball hit a sprinkler on the last and kicked on, and he gave me a clap for my shot, and he was the only one I heard clapping,” said the Englishman. “So I said, ‘you can have my lob wedge’.”

Now that’s what you call giving someone a special memory.

I fear it’s going to be close but no cigar for a second time for Russell Knox in the Ryder Cup. His last chance to secure an automatic spot in Thomas Bjorn’s team for the match in France next month has come and gone.

The Invernesian now needs a pick and, though that second-place finish at Le Golf National in the French Open in July certainly can’t be forgotten, the fact that Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are all in the same boat doesn’t augur well for Knox.

Bjorn, unfortunately, has been left with some really tough decisions and it will probably now take a win by the Scot in this week’s FedEx Cup event in Boston for him to be selected by the Dane tomorrow week.