It’s Thanksgiving weekend, 2006, and Tiger Woods is in the midst of the greatest individual run by any athlete in sports history.
The once-in-a-lifetime golf wunderkind has evolved into a legitimate challenger to Jack Nicklaus’ spot at the top of the sport’s food chain.
Just a few months ago, Woods won his second consecutive major, winning the PGA Championship with an 18-under score, the same exact to-par score he won the British Open with earlier that summer.
But Woods also is itching to get back to Augusta National where he’ll be pursuing his sixth green jacket. And it’s not just the chase of another Masters title driving Woods, it’s the unrelenting desire to rid his mouth of the bad taste that came earlier in 2006 when he had to slip the green jacket onto the shoulders of his No. 1 rival: Phil Mickelson.
Lefty got over the major hump two years prior at the 2004 Masters. Woods came back and won in 2005 before finishing tied for fourth behind Mickelson in 2006. They’re both atop the golf world in their primes and legitimate favorites to win any golf tournament they enter.
What if over Turkey Day weekend we pit the two of them against each other in a winner-take-all pay per view event? Pretty awesome, right?
But 12 years later? Well, that’s a slightly tougher sell.
That, however, is exactly what the powers that be in the sport of golf are trying to sell Friday afternoon. Amid a desert oasis known as Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, Woods and Mickelson will go toe to toe in a match-play showdown that would have been absolute must-see TV a decade ago.
The Woods-Mickelson duel still has its merits. Neither player is nearly as good as he was back then. Not even close. Another Thanksgiving weekend temporarily derailed Woods’ career and life. Crippling back and knee injuries slowed him even more. When Woods won the Tour Championship, it was borderline shocking. We weren’t sure Woods would be able to walk without pain let alone return to professional golf and win.
Mickelson, too, is in the twilight of his career. His last major win came in 2013, and he just finished the 2018 season 13th on the money list and ranked 24th in the world. He was abysmal at the Ryder Cup (Woods wasn’t much better), and the magical moments are fewer and further between.
So, why exactly would anyone want to spend $20 and take some time out of their holiday weekends to watch these guys play for a whole buttload of someone else’s money?
Nostalgia, for starters. Expecting Woods and Mickelson to be those golfers of 2006 is foolhardy, but if you squint hard enough, maybe they’ll offer a slight remnant of what they used to be.
And perhaps this would be a much more tantalizing event if the icy relationship between the two hadn’t thawed in recent years. As they’ve aged and priorities have shifted, Woods and Mickelson at least seem willing to put in the effort to make it seem like they like each other. Perhaps that takes something away from this matchup, too, but on the other hand, it’s kind of neat to see their relationship come full circle like this.
At the end of the day, if you can’t stomach spending a hard-earned $20 to watch a 42-year-old and 48-year-old hit a golf ball around an empty Vegas golf course, no one could blame you. It is Black Friday, after all, and there are better deals to be had elsewhere.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images