#AskAlan: Who has more at stake in the Tiger vs. Phil match?

LOTR voice: So it begins…

Since we’ll probably have to listen to this dopey Match thing for a few years to come (a la the Skins Game) who would make a good pairing next year? Rory M. v. Patrick R. perhaps? -Gordon (@fofop05)

Well, Tiger and Phil are not going to relinquish the stage any time soon. This is their franchise and they have a stake in its financial success. So all future matchups, and there will be many, are going to involve them. If I was Steiny, I would already be working on Tiger-Phil vs. Shubhankar Sharma-Haotong Li. Can you imagine the marketing possibilities on that one, sucking in China *and* India?! Tiger-Phil vs. Rory-Poults could be fun, especially as a walk-up to the next Ryder Cup. Phil-Jordan vs. Tiger-JT? Phil-Tiger vs. Brooks-DJ? Tiger-Lexi vs. Phil-Inbee? There are lots of fun possibilities … but none of them will involve Reed after his post-Ryder Cup temper tantrum.

#AskAlan: What does it say about both players if Phil wins the Match? Is it an indication that Phil still has some w’s left (maybe another major?), or just that Tiger isn’t as close to his old self as it seemed last year? [email protected]

No doubt Tiger has more at stake here. He has always been the alpha in this relationship, and he’s the heavy betting favorite for a reason. But this gaudy stage is better suited for Phil. Woods is a grinder, Mickelson a showman. On Tour, Tiger’s practice rounds are all business, while Phil’s are a moveable feast involving lots of bets and trash-talk. Also, Mickelson has always been able to get under Woods’s skin, sometimes even intentionally. If Phil gets a lead early and starts running his mouth, I can see Tiger’s clubhead speed approaching 150 mph, which is probably not a good thing. If Woods loses this match it will definitely sting, but I’m not sure these 18 holes have any value beyond pure entertainment.

How is it a “high stakes” match when neither competitor has any skin in the game? #AskAlan -Joshua (@fishahhh)

Nine milli is a lot of money to win but it won’t change either of their lives. Neither would losing that amount, if they put in their own money, as so many pundits suggested. It’s all about saving face. Both guys have immense egos, and it’s going to be highly embarrassing to whomever loses this thing. I’d say that’s actually a lot of skin in the game.

I’m a huge Tiger fan and $20 is not a lot to pay, but the time of day is why I won’t be watching The Match. Why is it not being played in prime time? #AskAlan -Dan (@djdonof)

For starters, lighting up an entire golf course is not a trifling matter; that sizeable expense would have come right out of Tiger’s and Phil’s profits, so you can imagine their lack of enthusiasm. And in the desert it gets quite chilly when the sun goes down – the low on Friday is forecast to be 42 degrees. More to the point, the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, Australia was long scheduled to be televised by Golf Channel live at 8 p.m. Eastern on this Friday; the tournament enjoys the support of the various international ruling bodies and there was a lot of pushback regarding having that telecast overshadowed by the Match.

I got one for ya, Alan..will there be cussing? And follow up..if so, what is over/under on F-bombs?? -Jon (@Crockett418)

If you can believe the “24/7” hype, yes, there will be profanity. I can imagine one or two s-words early on, or maybe a stray a**hole, just to add a little edginess, but both of these guys are walking multinational corporations with a brand to protect, not to mention kids and parents watching at home. So I would expect zero f-bombs or any really exotic locutions.

Tiger and Phil were all smiles during their practice round together at the Masters.

Charles Howell has now made at least $1 million for 19 consecutive season. Is this the most unbelievable stat in golf? -Richard (@jrmdbl07)

It’s certainly up there! As a guy who has obsessed in print over the likes of Kevin Na and Pat Perez, I do have a soft spot in my heart for dudes who have found a way to stay out on Tour forever despite soul-sucking victory droughts. Howell is a favorite of mine, too – always classy to fans, a great interview who will always talk, no matter what. Judging by Golf Twitter’s reaction on Sunday, this was the most popular (non-Tiger) win in a good long while.

Is CH3 the biggest disappointment (besides Tiger and Anthony Kim maybe) in the last 10ish years? First few years, and quality of his swing, made many think he was going to be an easy 20 win guy. Great career, but seemed like should have been special. #AskAlan -Kris (@Oiler3535)

This is certainly the counterpoint to all of the raves about his consistency. Howell’s incredible college career and the purity of his swing obscured a simple fact: he had a mechanical, imagination-free wedge game and his putting was streaky at best. He just has never had a flair for scoring, seemingly turning a lot of 66s into 70s. Maybe the greatest line ever typed about a golfer was Chris Jones a decade ago saying Howell plays golf “like a teenager f*cks.” Given Howell’s many, many chances, three wins is indeed a pretty paltry total. He’s living proof that golf is not played on the driving range.

After Casey, Phil, Tiger, CH3, Westy etc. all breaking long periods without a win, who would you like to see next? [email protected]

Stewart Cink.

#AskAlan Will Rory’s proposed commitment to PGA Tour events for 2019 be a game changer in his pursuit of more Major titles or is it too little too late? -Paul (@GolfFoodAddict)

It’s hardly too late – dude doesn’t turn 30 until next year. I fully support Rory on this, because 2019 is one of the most important years of his career, with the Open going to Portrush and, beyond his birthday, another freighted milestone approaching: the five-year anniversary of his last major championship victory. In that time, a handful of other players have passed him by. It’s time for Rory to do things differently to see if he can alter his trajectory. This is a good start.

Rory McIlroy watches a shot during the pro-am of the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week.

Rory McIlroy watches a shot during the Nedbank Golf Challenge pro-am.

#AskAlan: Why can pro’s chose on which tour they play (PGA vs European) and isn’t there an obligation for the top 100 to play in a worldwide schedule? Somewhat like the Grand Prix circuits of Formula 1. [email protected]

It’s just how the game grew up on different continents and now we’re stuck with it. For sure it would make sense to have one world tour that played 25 events around the globe, guaranteeing all the best players competed against each other week in and week out. But there are too many vested interests for that to happen now. The good news is that we have golf to watch every week of the year. The bad news? We have to watch golf every week of the year.

How much of Phil’s recent form is due to him attempting to raise his odds for the Match? -Ben (@phillybliss)

No doubt when he wins he’ll be claiming this was all 3-D chess. (And who knows how many of his associates will be claiming his winnings at casinos around town.) It might even be true.