Well, that was interesting.
The long-anticipated pay-per-view event “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson showcased the incredible potential of sponsored, made-for-TV betting extravaganzas … and a whole lot of challenges.
Yes, Mickelson won on the makeshift 22nd hole under the lights to capture $9 million. He had prepared more than Tiger and seemed to want it more. But the real story here is everything else that happened.
Consider this one small step for integrating wagering into sports broadcasts, one giant leap for the public embracing how fun legalized sports betting can be.
As we’ve written, the future of integrating betting into broadcasts is going to change how we watch sports. Not to mention that really, really smart people think sports betting will particularly increase golf’s popularity. ESPN’s executive vice president of content, Connor Schell has said:
“This is just the beginning of exploring how this changes how you connect with sports fans, and how you connect with the real avid and engaged sports fans.”
This specific point was highlighted throughout the broadcast as you saw live odds from PlayMGM (seen above) as well as fan tweets throughout the broadcast (captured here, or like JJ Watt’s below).
Tiger to Phil: “$200,000 closest to the pin?”
My buddies to me: “20 bucks says you put it in the water” #TheMatch
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) November 23, 2018
Making content out of in-play bets and how people are reacting to the action will be smoothed out, made more exciting, and ultimately generate more handle for sportsbooks.
The not so great
We’re not going to spend time belaboring this, but Mickelson and Woods’ “banter” caused more people to go comatose than Thursday’s Thanksgiving turkey.
“Samuel Jackson just sounds cool…” from Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson talking about their kids kind of killed the mood. That needs some work.
You’d think a guy like Mickelson who popped his collar like he was an extra from Hot Tub Time Machine, could’ve worked in some very obvious digs at Tiger to get into his head. Or just talked a little bit of shit.
That didn’t really happen.
The shit-talking was left to the lone shining spot of the broadcast team, Charles Barkley.
Barkley, who has no problem talking about and showing his love of gambling, was absolutely in his element.
From his jabs at NBA broadcast partner Shaq (“It’s so nice not to hear a guy mumble through six hours of TV…he’s chewing on the mic!”) to Woods and Mickelson (“I could beat them these guys are awful today”), Sir Charles infused much-needed personality and fun into the event.
Can we just forget the words “side sauce” for a while?
While all of the side bets made the somewhat poor a needed jolt, listening to adults feel like they’re suddenly cool by saying “side sauce” over and over wore out its welcome on the third or fourth “side sauce.”
The side sauce
Ok, there was some good side sauce between Tiger and Phil.
It took all of a minute in the broadcast for Ernie Johnson to mention Mickelson’s $200,000 first hole birdie bet (he didn’t make it).
The $1 million eagle hole (par 4 9th) added some suspense to an otherwise totally boring end to the front nine.
In all, along with the $9 million purse, Mickelson took $600,000 in side action that went to charity.
The betting at books
The broadcast did a great job of letting viewers know of all the action (at PlayMGM at least).
If you had bet the halves on most of the holes, you’d have done well for yourself. Same if you had taken Mickelson. This point was beaten home throughout the pay-per-view.
Tiger was the favorite heading in, going to -200 at one point, and public money is almost always going to be on Tiger.
How much public money? According to VP of Race and Sports for MGM Resorts International, Jay Rood, the event took in 8-10 times more action than a typical non-major golf event.
The final thoughts
I’m not much of one for hyperbole, but this is the future of peer-to-peer betting and where sports betting is headed.
Golf is the perfect sport for this type of showcase. Betting is part of the culture. There’s constant action and ample time to set in-play wagers.
Again though, it’s the peer-to-peer side, the match-making, the stuff you can do with your friends as you watch these events — that’s where this goes through the roof. Yes, integrating wagering in broadcasts as you live bet on PlayMGM-like sites and apps is great, but being able to bet on anything against anyone while you watch is the next-level that sports betting will eventually reach.
This made-for-TV event was just the start. It’s only going up from here.