PGA Tour

Golf officials defend 'The Match' as critics circle

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods (Supplied)
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods (Supplied)

Hong Kong - Top golf officials have given their backing to the $9 million head-to-head showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson after critics called it demeaning and even outdated.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, which helps govern golf and set its rules, told AFP that alternative formats like "The Match" helped the sport reach new audiences.

Mickelson won $9 million in the one-round, winner-takes-all exhibition in front of an invitation-only crowd in Las Vegas last week.

Neither player was in need of the money, as Mickelson is second only to Woods on the all-time list of golf's highest earners, according to various estimates.

"I think different forms of the game are really important," Slumbers said, at this week's Sports Connects conference at the Mission Hills golf resort in Dongguan, southern China.

"I think we have to embrace all these different types of the game. If that brings more people into it then I think that's great," he added.

Arjun Chowdri, senior director of the PGA of America, also said the high-profile match-up between the long-time rivals was a "great idea".

"I love it because it's the idea of responsible disruption," he told the conference at the Mission Hills golf resort in Dongguan.

"I think it's a great idea, it's good for the sport... it's different, it doesn't take away from the sport - it just brings more people in."

However, not all reactions have been positive. Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said The Match "shined a light on the greedy - not the charitable side of golf - and put its two biggest stars in a position to fail.

"Let's call this affair in Las Vegas what it really was: two stars trying to rehabilitate their images, that had little initial gravity and failed to generate its own energy when neither Tiger nor Phil could find authentic motivation in the carnival atmosphere," Chamblee wrote.

"The Match may grow the game, just as weeds grow on your lawn... The Match was not transcendent, it was transparent, and it demeaned the game. Period."

Tenniel Chu, vice-chairperson of Mission Hills, said "we started that (format) way before" when he hosted Woods against Rory McIlroy in the 'Match at Mission Hills' in 2013.

"I feel like it's a bit outdated... I think it's a bit overdone already," Chu told AFP.

"To me it doesn't excite anything. It's a good marketing campaign, TV show, but I'm not quite sure if that really helps the overall golf development."

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