When Phil Mickelson won the CA Championship last week at Doral’s Blue Monster in“Yeah, but Tiger hasn’t played in almost a year,” quipped one of Miller’s NBC colleagues.
, NBC’s Johnny Miller was quick to point out that Mickelson had closed the gap on Tiger Woods and was within a few points of becoming the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings. Miami
“That’s true,” replied Miller.
The Woods-Mickelson rivalry spawns compelling golf theater. Tiger versus Phil is good for the game, great for the TV ratings, and each player seems to have his own fan base. Is it real between the players?
According to Eddie Carbone, tournament director for the CA Championship, it is.
“It’s not like boxing, where you are drawing blood from your opponent, or like football, where you are laying a hit on a guy,” said Carbone, who has guided the Doral event since 2004. “But it certainly creates interest in the game of golf. This rivalry is the modern-day version of Nicklaus versus Palmer, and it will fade over time like all rivalries do.
“I think Phil and Tiger are friendlier than most would think. But there is no question that this thing with the World Rankings could create a dramatic showdown at The Masters.”
So what was Carbone’s assessment of golf’s premier players as they tackled the Blue Monster at Doral last week?
“It was an interesting week for Phil,” Carbone said. “He absolutely emanated extreme confidence all week. It was almost role reversal for Phil, with Nick Watney being the underdog in pursuit. Phil’s first-round 65 set the stage, and he never really looked back.
“Considering Phil spent some time at the urgent care center for the flu over the weekend, his play was impressive.”
For what it’s worth, Mickelson made a quick stop at Augusta National Golf Club a couple of weeks ago and made 12 birdies in a 27-hole practice round.
“I never saw him hit it better or play with more confidence,” observed one Augusta National member who joined Phil and Billy Payne, Masters chairman, for the day of golf.
On Woods, Carbone had this to say: “He seems to be in the best physical shape that he has been in recent years. The knee doesn’t appear to bother him. He didn’t putt particularly well at Doral. In the end, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him win five or six events in 2009, including a couple of majors.”
Woods was a late entry to the World Golf Championship at Doral. He officially entered at 2:02 p.m. on the Friday before the event.
It’s amazing that Carbone, the tournament director, knew the exact time to the minute.
“Daily ticket sales doubled from that point,” Carbone said. “Somebody asked Tiger why he waited so long, and he said, ‘Because that’s what I do.’
“It actually increased the buzz for our event. He is the world’s greatest athlete and the most recognizable. We estimated our crowd to be 110,000 for the tournament. We had our largest Thursday crowd ever.”
When asked about a dollar value that Woods created, Carbone responded, “That’s tough to say. It is always a late-purchasing market in
As mentioned, the CA Championship is a World Golf Championship event. This means that it is a limited field with no cut. Only the world’s top players get invited.
This year’s event at Doral included all 50 of the world’s top-ranked players for the second consecutive year. In fact, the 2009 CA Championship was the highest-rated field outside of the four Majors and the Players Championship in the history of golf.
CA is the world’s fifth largest computer software company, and their sponsorship runs through 2011. What is the value to the sponsor in a time when criticism flows for lavish sports marketing expenses?
“The sponsorship energizes CA’s sales force and creates global brand awareness for the company. The CA Championship donated $1.4 million to charities in the
And there is more to Tour golf than just Tiger and Phil. Carbone used Camilo Villegas, one of the hottest sensations on the PGA Tour in recent months, to promote ticket sales by doing PSA’s in English and Spanish.
“We have 2.5 million residents in the area and only five private country clubs. Camilo helped us bring awareness to the many immigrants that South Florida has from countries such as
More people watch golf on television than ever before. Surpris-ingly, a large number of those viewers don’t play the game.
If you are an avid golf spectator, I encourage you to contact one of the PGA golf professionals in your area and find out what this buzz is all about.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and secretary of PGA of America.
Photo Caption: When Phil Mickelson won the CA Championship last week at Doral’s Blue Monster in Miami, NBC’s Johnny Miller was quick to point out that Mickelson had closed the gap on Tiger Woods and was within a few points of becoming the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings.
“Yeah, but Tiger hasn’t played in almost a year,” quipped one of Miller’s NBC colleagues.