Why you’re not a sucker if you decide to buy Tiger vs. Phil

Criticize it if you’d like — and there has been plenty of grousing from the grumps in the world about it — but why not simply view Friday’s made-for-TV match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for what it is?

A little bit of fun on an otherwise dull TV sports-viewing day.

Is it contrived? Of course it’s contrived. So what? Buy it or don’t.

If you’re a golf fan and you’re intrigued by who will win this match-play event between the two most popular and iconic players of this generation and you don’t mind plunking down $20, buy it and enjoy it for what it is.

If you’re a golf purist and embrace your golf only in traditional tournament form and on free TV, that’s OK. Don’t buy it.

If you’re simply a hater for whom being skeptical is your favorite sport, allow me borrow the best line from “Stripes,” the great Bill Murray movie: “Lighten up, Francis.’’

You’re not a sucker if you buy it, because it’ll be your choice to pay the freight.

And, if we’re comparing the value of pay-per-view events, unlike some of the boxing matches that have sold for upwards of a $100 and are over after only a round or two, you’re going to get more for less money from the Tiger-Phil match.

If you’re critical of the $9 million they’re paying for, why should that bother you? It’s not your money; it’s sponsorship money.

What I do agree with from some skeptics is that this match would be a lot more interesting if Woods and Mickelson were playing for their own $9 million. But what athletes in what sports put up their own money — particularly when there are sponsors to do it for them?

None, that’s how many.

What Woods and Mickelson have smartly done, though, is agree to some side betting, which is supposed to come from their own pockets and go to charity.

Mickelson might be nine career major championships behind Woods (14 to 5), but he might be the all-time greatest as a marketing man.

He coyly floated out a trial balloon on this mano-a-mano concept months before it was announced (but hardly before the idea was conceived) when he bantered with reporters in advance of the Players Championship in May, a tournament in which he and Woods were grouped together for the first two rounds.

“It gets me thinking … why don’t we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head-to-head and just have kind of a high-stakes, winner-take-all match?’’ Mickelson said. “Now I don’t know if he wants a piece of me, but I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do, and I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round.”

On Tuesday, Mickelson strategically (and smartly) immediately raised the stakes by baiting Woods into the added action on the first hole, a 415-yard par-4.

“I feel like the first hole is a great hole for me,” Mickelson said. “In fact, I’m willing to risk $100,000 that says I birdie the first hole. So that’s how good I feel heading into this match.”

“So you think you can make birdie on the first hole?” Woods responded.

“I know I’m going to make birdie on the first hole,” Mickelson said.

“Double it,” Woods said.

Whether or not the two discussed this side bet before the press conference, which is entirely possible, isn’t relevant. What is relevant, though, is they’ve drawn you into the match immediately with that extra $200,000 immediately on the line.

Will every hole they play be compelling, draw the same kind of intensity you’d get from a real tournament, particularly a major championship? Of course not.

But, given the subjects, despite the fact that both are past their prime, there are certain to be enough entertaining moments to make the money spent worth the fun.

No one suggested this event was designed to “grow the game’’ of golf. It’s something different, whether you embrace it or not.

With both players wearing microphones, there will be some trash-talk interaction between the two.

“He came along and broke every single record I had — junior records, college, U.S. amateur — I won one, he won three,’’ Mickelson, five-plus years Woods’ senior, said of their California youth days. “It’s my chance after losing so many tournaments to [Woods], so many majors, to get something back. This is a unique opportunity to do something that I’ve had a hard time doing, which is to get a leg up on Tiger even if it’s just one day.”

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