BLOG | by Lance Fraenkel

Mickelson v Woods head-to-head. Can the veterans draw a crowd in made-for-TV format? And will ‘The Match’ undermine the US Tour?

From Frasier and Ali, through Borg versus McEnroe, to Nicklaus and Palmer, sports have always relied on the performances of their stars.

So it is no surprise that two of the most decorated golfers of recent times – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – have decided to strip away the supporting cast of a major to go head-to-head in a winner-takes-all contest this Thanksgiving.

Whilst golf is no stranger to flipping formats – see the Monday Night Golf experiment, for example – what is to be made of this particular match-up? Will it draw the crowds that backers are banking on? Let’s take a look at what the data says about who are America’s favorite golfers.

For fans of the PGA Men’s Golf Tour, there is no question that Tiger still draws the crowds – he’s a favorite for nearly a quarter of those we asked (see our chart below). And who’s in second? Well, it’s none other than the other half of ‘The Match’, Leftie himself, with Mickelson beating Jordan Spieth into third by some way. So for broadcasters, there’s no question that this is the pairing golf fans are most likely to be drawn to.

Luckily enough, Woods and Mickelson are the favorites among the general population too. So when it comes to dipping into the pay-per-view pockets of the general public, they are also the premium pairing.

Finally, what about the argument that a made-for-TV event with such a big purse (at $9m, bigger than for winning any of the Majors) undermines the bread and butter of professional golf – the US Tour? The less interesting answer is that time will tell. But a more interesting take is that what’s good for the players is good for the wider sport.

A look at the Buzz and Word of Mouth metric scores for the PGA Men’s Golf Tour, data we collect daily as part of our SportsIndex service, tells us that Woods v Mickelson may well bring a significant upside to the Tour.

Since the turn of the year, nothing appears to have created such a sharp increase in chatter about the Tour as the announcement of ‘The Match’. It looks like these two greats of the golfing stage are still very much part of the sport’s conversation.

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Lance joined SMG Insight in 2017 as Vice President for North America. Having previously worked for YouGov, Lance has over ten years’ experience in the market research products industry, beginning as an analyst within the consumer division and advancing to the role of Head of Client Management for North America. Lance has successfully developed talent and led large cross-functional teams, consulting with a broad range of clients including Google, NBC, VISA, Bank of America, Omnicom Media Group and Twitter. Lance is a graduate of New York’s Cornell University.



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