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  • Alistair Tait

Golf matches we wish we’d seen

Hands up those who can remember who won the first "Match" between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods without resorting to a search engine? Thought so. Must admit, I had to look it up too.

Well done those who remembered Mickelson won $9 million with a birdie on the 22nd hole two years ago. ($9 million for 22 holes – the world has gone mad!) I say well done because it was an utterly forgettable contest. So forgettable it’s probably no wonder NFL legends Tom Brady (Mickelson’s partner) and Peyton Manning (Wood’s partner) have been added to try to spice up today’s contest.

Pretty sure many will tune in to watch Woods go against Mickelson at The Medalist to raise money for coronavirus relief. We’ve been so starved of golf that any live action is welcome. Hopefully it will provide better entertainment than last week’s TaylorMade Driving Relief match featuring Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at Seminole. Well done to the quartet for giving up their time and helping raise money for coronavirus charities. Too bad it was such an insipid affair.

So onto Woods v Mickelson, a rivalry that’s whetted appetites for years. And face it, we love rivalries, whether it’s Ben Hogan v Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus v Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo v Sandy Lyle, Seve Ballesteros v the entire USA, etc. Imagine if you had your wish and could set up any rivalry you wanted. Here’s a few cheeky matches from recent team competitions that would’ve made for incredibly interesting viewing.

Cameron Smith v Patrick Reed

2019 Presidents Cup

Smith gave many of us hope that those who commit serious breaches of the rules will be challenged. The Australian called out Reed for improving his lie during last year’s Hero World Challenge. Reed was assessed a two-shot penalty, and later claimed the camera angle made the incident look worse than it actually was. Smith was having none of that.

"I don't have any sympathy for anyone that cheats," Smith said. "I know Pat pretty good and he's always been nice to me, so I don't want to say anything bad about him. But anyone's cheating the rules, I'm not up for that."

The hoped or singles match up didn’t come to fruition. It would have been the must view head to head match on the final day.

Suzann Pettersen v Alison Lee

2015 Solheim Cup

Controversy flared up in the 2015 Solheim Cup when Pettersen and Charley Hull played against Lee and Brittany Lincicome. Lee missed a birdie putt to win the 17th hole and then picked her ball up thinking the European pair had conceded the putt. Pettersen and Hull said they hadn’t conceded the 18-inch putt.

Pettersen initially defended her decision, but apologised unreservedly a few days later. Too bad the pair weren’t drawn against each other in the singles beforehand. The atmosphere would’ve been electric.

Ian Poulter v Tiger Woods

2008 Ryder Cup

It would have been a dream singles match if only Woods had played in that year’s match at Valhalla. Woods sat out the rest of the year after winning the U.S. Open with a broken leg. Earlier that season Poulter made a quote he had to live with for a long time.

"I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger."

Poulter beat Steve Stricker 3&2 in singles play in a contest few will probably remember. Imagine the interest had Woods made the team and drawn Poulter?

Annika Sorenstam v Kelly Robbins

2000 Solheim Cup

Controversy marred the 2000 match at Loch Lomond when Sorenstam had to replay a shot after chipping in for birdie on the 13th hole in a four-ball a match with Janice Moodie against Robbins and Pat Hurst. Robbins realised Sorenstam had played out of turn and reported the incident to match referee Barb Trammell. U.S. captain Pat Bradley was called for, and decided to have Sorenstam replay the shot.

Bradley was perfectly within her rights to do so, but the decision wasn’t in keeping with the spirit of the game. Sorenstam missed her subsequent chip and the Americans went on to win 2&1. The Swede was seething, and accused the Americans of poor sportsmanship.

Sorenstam and Robbins didn’t play against each other in singles. Too bad. It would have made for intriguing viewing.

Hopefully round two of Woods v Mickelson serves up intriguing viewing. But I’m not getting my hopes up.

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