Phil Mickelson birdied the fourth playoff hole in fading light to win “The Match” against Tiger Woods and claim the $9 million winner-takes-all prize in Friday’s pay-per-view event at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas.
With temperatures dipping into the 50s and the pair playing a 93-yard makeshift playoff hole from the practice putting surface back to the 18th green, Mickelson put his third attempt at the hole inside five feet.
Woods, who didn’t hit a putt of more than five feet all day, left his own birdie attempt from just over seven feet short and right. That set the stage — for the fourth time — for Mickelson to close out the match. This time, he drained the $9 million putt.
Mickelson’s winning putt came moments after a show of sportsmanship. After missing his birdie attempt on the third playoff hole, Mickelson told Woods to pick up his five-foot par attempt with the green illuminated mostly from production lighting, saying, “I don’t want to win like this, let’s go.”
They returned to the makeshift tee box for the third time. Woods hit his approach to under eight feet, only to watch Mickelson drop his tee shot inside of five feet.
It was a fitting end for a man known for his short game after Mickelson struggled with his short game throughout regulation. Mickelson missed only a few fairways through 18 holes, and would have ended the match hours earlier had he been able to cash in on several birdie putts.
“I’m just trying to calm down right now, my heart can’t take much more,” Mickelson said afterward. “This has been such an incredible opportunity to have a day like this with Tiger.
“He’s the greatest of all time. But to be able to have just to have just a little bit of smack talk for the coming years means a lot for me because I really don’t have much on him. He always drops the big picture and it’s the trump card. But to have a day like today ... I never thought that we’d go to this extra hole. My heart can’t take much more of it.”
Mickelson and Woods also agreed to pay for side bets out of their own pocket that would go to charity. Woods won $200,000 on the first hole when Mickelson missed his birdie putt, but Mickelson swept three “closest to the pin” wagers on par 3s for a total of $600,000.
Woods struggled with his putter all day. Mickelson never trailed through the front nine but was unable to pull away, uncharacteristically missing several putts either short or to the low side of the cup.
Still, Mickelson arrived at the 17th hole with a 1-up lead. He appeared to be in the driver’s seat when he hit the green, while Woods’ tee shot bounded to the back and nestled against the collar.
That’s when vintage Woods finally arrived, as he chipped in for birdie, flipping the pressure squarely back on Mickelson. Going from a potential putt for $9 million, Mickelson instead pulled the putt left of the cup, squaring the match going to the 18th hole.
“You’ve been doing this crap to me for 20 years, I don’t know why I’m surprised now,” Mickelson joked. “Great shot there, Tiger.”
Woods split the 18th fairway, while Mickelson’s drive wound up in the first cut of the rough. However, Mickelson’s shot over the water held the green, and Woods’ again rolled off the back.
Woods hit his third shot to just over five feet, giving Mickelson his first crack at a winning putt. His attempt from 32 feet again fell left, and Woods was able to convert his birdie putt to force the first extra hole.
They returned to the 18th hole. Woods pulled his drive left, giving him a stance in the pine needles that forced him to lay up. Mickelson, just feet from where he hit his second shot on the same hole just minutes before, nearly cost himself the match when he faded his approach shot.
Mickelson caught a break with his ball coming up just short of the water. Facing a buried lie, he managed to blast his ball over the creek and onto the green near his first putt on the 18th hole. Mickelson’s birdie putt again fell left, leaving Woods a seven-foot putt for the win.
Woods’ putter again let him down, as he never gave it a shot with the ball trickling short and left. It was one of many poorly hit putts by Woods throughout the day.
With temperatures falling into the low 50s and light fading, that sent the match to a 93-yard chip shot back to the 18th hole from the practice putting green.
Woods’ first tee shot bounced off a spectator, and he got up-and-down for par. Mickelson hit the green, but left yet another chance to win short and left.
Back to the tee box, Woods again flew the green. Mickelson put his shot on the green, but was unable to convert — setting up the show of sportsmanship to head back to the tee box again in near darkness.
“I just hit bad shots,” Woods said of the 93-yard makeshift holes. “I’m usually pretty good at hitting the ball pin high, and that was a good example of what not to do.”