Why it's OK to ignore the issues of Tiger vs. Phil

Mickelson says match vs. Tiger is a 'sprint, not a marathon' (2:01)

Phil Mickelson joins Scott Van Pelt to preview his upcoming $9 million match against Tiger Woods and how it differs from competing for majors. (2:01)

It all seemed like good fun back in May when Phil Mickelson began playfully poking Tiger Woods as they were to be grouped together for one of the rare times in their careers on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson was setting the stage for what would become known as The Match, to be played on Friday with a winner-take-all purse of $9 million in Las Vegas.

Back then, it just seemed like Phil being Phil.

"It gets me thinking," Mickelson said in reaction to all the hype surrounding him playing with Woods at the Players Championship (along with Rickie Fowler). "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-stake, winner-take-all match?

"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."

Later, Woods went along, suggesting he'd be happy to take on Mickelson for "whatever makes him uncomfortable."

That was the first public vetting of something that had already been in the works, the idea of a one-on-one matchup that would take place for big money -- and possibly set the stage for other matches. Mickelson had hoped it would come together by the Fourth of July, and it was around that time that the first details began to emerge.

What appeared then to be an interesting idea has taken considerable hits in the lead-up to this 18-hole encounter at Shadow Creek.

Charging via pay-per-view probably leads the list, forcing those who might be intrigued to make a decision about parting with $20 to watch an otherwise meaningless exhibition on television.

The fact that this type of encounter would have played better in their primes is also prominently mentioned, with even Rory McIlroy chiming in last week, saying that it "missed the mark a little bit."

Certainly the play of Woods and Mickelson at the Ryder Cup -- they combined to go 0-6 in a deflating performance as part of a United States loss to Europe -- didn't help.

And nor does the huge sum being played for, an amount even Woods suggested was "astronomical."

All perfectly good reasons to have your doubts.

Counterargument: so what?

With a nod to all the negative takes, why not just sit back and enjoy it for what it is, two of the game's legends going head-to-head in a big-money match with some trash talking and side bets thrown in?

Nobody is suggesting this is major championship theater, or even Doral-level drama. (Their 2005 showdown during the final round in Miami was epic and remains -- unless it happens at a major in the twilight of their careers -- their best head-to-head matchup).

Yes, having to pay for it is annoying, but, as even Mickelson noted, that $20 can be split among friends who take in The Match together. While not suggesting how to spend other peoples' money, we are talking about a discretionary income choice that many would squander on other dubious endeavors. And it is Black Friday after all, a day associated with money-spending opulence.

And then there are a couple of issues concerning the big money being offered.

Many have opined they'd only care about this if the two players put up their own cash.

Such a proposition is naive. What athletes in any other sport have done something similar? It's never happened and never will, and to think that these guys would be the first to do it lacks an understanding of their place in the entertainment, marketing and endorsement world.

Depending on the outlet tracking such things -- Forbes, Golf Digest, etc. -- Woods and Mickelson earn in excess of $40 million per year apiece in off-the-course income. Mickelson makes well into six-figure paydays for one-day outings that are not televised. Woods can command $2 million plus for overseas tournament appearance fees.

The what-should-be-obvious point here is that these guys garner a healthy sum for walking across the street to tee up a golf ball. They are not going to -- nor do they need to -- put their own money on the table. (And to be clear, neither player will walk away from this with nothing; both of their management teams are heavily invested, and nobody is working for free.)

The $9 million amount seems gaudy to some (it was actually $10 million before the PGA Tour got involved and asked the parties to play for less, wanting to protect the prestige of its $10 million FedEx Cup payout -- which is actually going to $15 million in 2019). Again, for guys who each have a couple of eight-figure endorsement deals, nobody should be shocked at that number.

The charitable components of The Match are so far unclear, and this should be spelled out better. If every PGA Tour event donates proceeds to charity, so should this one-day exhibition. That said, Woods and Mickelson are hardly slouches when it comes to charity, as evidenced by their own foundations.

So yes, the event has its flaws, to be sure. Playing this in, say, 2006 -- at a point when Woods and Mickelson combined to win four of the five majors played in a 12-month period -- might have brought more intrigue, but the result would not be any more meaningful, or historically significant, than what will transpire Friday. This will not alter the legacy of either player.

This is simply an entertainment play (and perhaps a test to see more of these type of matches in the future, maybe with Tiger and Phil as partners), with a gambling component that we are likely to see more prominent in sports, including golf. Tiger and Phil are two of the game's biggest stars, even at this late stage in their careers.

Not everyone is on board with this, and that is understandable. But it is hardly a blight on the game or on the individuals taking part. As Woods often says, "It is what it is."

And it might actually be fun.