PALM DESERT, Calif., July 30 - The Battle at Bighorn becomes the Battle at The Bridges next year. The prime-time TV exhibition featuring Tiger Woods and fill-in-the-blank is moving from the desert to the coast north of San Diego. That was easy enough.
Battle at Bighorn ratings fall slightlyTiger, Jack show they’re great team
THE REAL CHALLENGE is finding a new collection of players to keep it interesting.
IMG officials already have said that one-on-one matches are out of the question because it only sets Woods up for failure. While Woods dispatched of David Duval in the inaugural “Showdown at Sherwood,” he was clearly annoyed when Sergio Garcia beat him at Bighorn two years ago and celebrated as though he had won his first major.
Then again, there might not be another choice.
The mixed-team event last year with Woods and Annika Sorenstam against Duval and Karrie Webb was a disaster. The course was set up like a major championship, the alternate-shot format was slow and the women wore the same clothes.
The generational match Monday night was entertaining, for no other reason than the teams made a birdie on every hole except the last one, Garcia cut his pre-shot waggles down to single digits and Lee Trevino did enough talking for everyone - including the gallery.
Gary Player and Ernie Els of South Africa were considered for this year’s exhibition, although both might be a little too intense for a hit-and-giggle contest. Besides, putting a live microphone on Player is asking for trouble.
Here are some suggestions for IMG as it sorts through the list of candidates:
Tiger versus Jack Nicklaus
Nicklaus conceded two years ago at Valhalla during the PGA Championship that Woods is “a better player than I was,” and he predicted Monday night after their 3 and 2 victory that Woods probably would break all his records before he turned 20.
“You’re not 20 yet are you?” he asked.
InsertArt(1576031)Still, Nicklaus has been railing about the supersonic balls for the last five years, so the solution is simple: Nicklaus plays Titleist. Tiger plays the gutta percha.
Then again, Woods used a replica of the gutta percha during a practice round at St. Andrews two years ago. He still made a par.
Tiger against Phil Mickelson, Thomas Bjorn and Ed Fiori:
These are the only three players who have won tournaments in which Woods had at least a share of the lead going into the final round.
Bjorn won in Dubai last year when Woods made double bogey on the 72nd hole. Mickelson took him down in the 2000 Tour Championship at East Lake. Until then, Fiori had the distinction of being the “Tiger Slayer,” beating him at the 1996 Quad Cities Classic in Woods’ third tournament as a pro.
A lot of good it did Fiori.
He hasn’t finished higher than 200th on the money list since then.
Tiger versus Billy Mayfair
Woods has played in seven playoffs on the PGA Tour and has lost just one. Mayfair beat him on the first extra hole of the Nissan Open in 1998, the year the tournament moved from Riviera to Valencia Country Club.
Tiger and Juli Inkster versus Mike Weir and Lorie Kane:
The women deserve another shot, this time on a golf course where the greens aren’t running 13 on the Stimpmeter and the wind isn’t blowing 35 mph.
Inkster would be a great partner for Woods because a.) She’s a fellow Californian. b.) She won three straight U.S. Women’s Amateur titles before Woods made it out of elementary school. c.) She reportedly makes great French toast.
To really jazz it up, Woods has to use a hockey stick to tee off on par 5s.
Tiger against Jeff Maggert, Peter O’Malley and Darren Clarke
This would have to be a match-play event because these are the three guys who have defeated Woods in the Match Play Championship.
Maggert knocked him off in the quarterfinals of the inaugural World Golf Championship event in 1999; Clarke dusted him in the 36-hole finals a year later, and O’Malley became the first No. 64 seed to win a match this year.
Since Woods can’t make it to the last hole against these guys, the tournament could save money by not putting up lights.
Woods versus Mickelson:
This is the match everyone wants to see, and no one will.
Woods and Mickelson are not the best of friends, evidenced by the fact that Woods probably will skip the World Cup this year instead of being forced to play with Lefty, and Mickelson hasn’t played in Woods’ season-ending tournament since it moved to California.
Still, it would be No. 1 against No. 2, and that’s how these made-for-TV events got started.
Don’t bet on it happening.
Mickelson is a member at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, which is where the exhibition will be played the next year. The closest he’ll ever get to the event is from his balcony.
© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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