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Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson targeting $10 million Thanksgiving duel

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson targeting $10 million Thanksgiving duel

(CNN) - A $10 million made-for-TV duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson could take place this Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.

The golfing head-to-head, which once would have been a real grudge match, took a step closer to reality when Mickelson told reporters it is likely to occur on November 23 or 24.

"As we firm up more and more details we'll let everybody know, but right now we know it's going to be Thanksgiving weekend for sure," he said on Thursday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational event at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

Woods, 42, appeared to suggest the match was likely to happen, but said: "I haven't signed anything. Nothing is confirmed. When it is, I'll let you guys know."

The former arch-rivals, who have won 19 majors between them, have become increasingly friendly in recent years and seem keen to instigate the 18-hole exhibition match for which they would wear on-course microphones.

The match was first slated for early July, before falling through.

The stakes will be high: The reported winner-take-all purse of $10 million would payout more than five times what Masters winner Patrick Reed received in April.

It is unclear whether the players would stump up the money themselves or rely on corporate sponsors -- or whether each of their charities will be involved -- but Mickelson recently said: "No matter how much money you have, this amount will take both of us out of our comfort zone."

Mickelson, 48, has said it could turn into a regular exhibition event, in the same way that top tennis stars play each other away from the regular tour.

"As we've developed a good relationship, we've started to collaborate on some other things that have allowed us to achieve things that we couldn't do on our own," added Mickelson, who created a stir Thursday when his dancing in a video advert for his clothing line went viral.

"Like this match. I couldn't do it on my own. He couldn't do it on his own. But together, we're [trying] to create something pretty special."

The duo have been rivals for much of their careers, with Mickelson a long-time number two to Woods' domination as world No.1.

Their relationship, frosty in their primes, has thawed in recent years as age and life experiences have brought them closer.

They stunned the world of golf by joining each other for a practice round at the Masters in April, and were paired for the first two rounds of the Players in May.

With Mickelson's first win in five years earlier this season, and Woods' resurgence from multiple back surgeries, the hype went into overdrive.

'Whatever makes him uncomfortable'

In a press conference ahead of the Players, renowned gambling fan Mickelson called out Woods for a big-money match.

"The excitement that's been going on around here, 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?" he 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."

When told of Mickelson's comments, Woods smiled and told reporters: "I'm definitely not against that. We'll play for whatever makes him uncomfortable."

Woods has won more than $111 million in prize money on the PGA Tour alone in his career, while Mickelson has banked over $87 million on the US circuit.

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Meet the teacher who handicapped the world's biggest races

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(CNN) - For all the star names in horse racing, from Queen Elizabeth II to Sheikh Mohammed to Frankie Dettori, the sport's most influential figure over the past 20 years may just be someone you have never heard of.

After handicapping the Grand National for the 20th and final time in his career in April, former British school teacher Phil Smith will retire from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) at the end of this month.

He's the man who has helped deliver competitive racing in Briton, assessing handicaps for races, both on the flat and over jumps, where horses carry different weights, depending on their racing ability. The better horses will be carrying extra weight which will affect the speed at which they gallop.

And having spent the past 11 years as the head of handicapping for the BHA, you could argue that few other people have had a similar impact on their sport as Smith has.

"I never really thought of it that way, to be honest," Smith told CNN by phone.

"You just see it as task you've got to do. You are trying to produce a competitive race, you want all the owners and trainers when they turn up to think they've got a chance," said Smith.

Schoolteacher

Originally from Allerton, a suburb of Liverpool, Smith said he has always had a passion for horse racing. While teaching maths and history at a secondary school, he wrote a statistical book on horse racing.

In 1995, he joined the BHA as a flat racing handicapper. Four years later, Smith was named senior National Hunt handicapper before becoming the BHA's head of handicapping in 2007. Now 68, Smith announced in October that he will be retiring from the regulatory body, the BHA, this season.

Grand National

Of all the races he has handicapped over the years, none have been more special than the one million-pound ($1.4 million) Grand National, which is staged at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool.

Handicapping the Grand National for two decades has been "a real privilege and an honor for somebody from Liverpool," Smith said.

Watched by more than 600 million people worldwide, the Grand National is one of the sport's toughest races that features 40 horses traveling for four-and-a-half miles over 30 fences, the longest National Hunt race in Britain.

"I want them all to think they've got a one-in-forty chance of winning the race," said Smith. "I really don't want them to come and think they are an absolutely cast iron certainty and I don't want to come and think they've got absolutely no chance," he added.

"The race has been in existence for over a hundred years, and I believe that I will have done more races than any other handicapper," he said.

Criticism

Setting the weights on races with so much at stake -- the National in 2019 will have prize money of £1 million ($1.3 million) -- it is not surprising that Smith has come in for criticism from some owners over the weight allocated to their horses, perhaps most notably from Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.

"I look at it from the point of view and the fact that I am confident in my own ability to give every horse an equal chance," Smith said. "And I know I've done that."

30 lengths

Although Smith has great memories from his years as a handicapper, he still shudders at the thought of the rain-soaked 2001 Grand National race, when Red Marauder won.

The horse was only one of only four to complete the race, with 30 lengths between each one and the third and fourth finishers having to remount after falling off.

"I wasn't really helped by the conditions because the ground was a swamp that year," Smith said. "But I still felt bad afterwards."

Two careers

Still, it's not been a bad career for a teacher from Liverpool.

"I enjoyed teaching a lot, but at the same time I am lucky to have had two careers both lasting 23 years," Smith said. "I enjoyed them both equally. It's a great idea to change your job every 23 years."

Tour de France temporarily halted by protesters; riders inadvertently tear-gassed

Tour de France temporarily halted by protesters; riders inadvertently tear-gassed

(CNN) - The Tour de France -- cycling's most prestigious race -- was temporarily halted Tuesday after tear gas, used to disperse protesters by police, inadvertently got into the eyes of some riders.

Protesting farmers had blocked the road with hay bales, leading police to spray them with CS gas.

Unhappy farmers had organized the protest because they "wanted to be seen" by France's Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Travert, according to a police source.

"Looks like the tear gas used by the police on the farmers ended up getting to the eyes of some riders," tweeted the Quick-Step Cycling team.

The police source confirmed the race was stopped because the organizers wanted the gas to disperse to avoid any other riders being affected.

Medical treatment received by the riders was described as "light," while there were "no injuries" and cyclists were just washing off any molecules of tear gas.

Tour leader Geraint Thomas -- as well as several other riders -- was seen rinsing his eyes with water as the cyclists waited behind the race organizers' cars for the stage to restart.

Stage 16 of Le Tour 2018 sees the riders make their way 218 kilometers from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon.

"After a 15 minute-long interruption caused by protesters, the race is back on," tweeted the Tour's Twitter feed.

The Tour feed also posted a tweet warning spectators to "respect the riders," as endangering them can lead to up to three years in prison.

It's not the first time protests have affected this year's Tour, though they had previously been aimed at Team Sky and its rider Chris Froome.

Ahead of the Tour, 33-year-old Froome had been under an anti-doping cloud after he was found to have more than the permissible level of asthma drug salbutamol in his urine at last September's Vuelta a España.

After a nine-month investigation -- during which Froome constantly protested his innocence -- cycling's governing body the UCI, on the advice of experts from the World Anti-Doping Agency, dropped the case just before the Tour began earlier in July.

Nonetheless, last week Froome and other Team Sky riders were targeted by a flare, while the four-time champion was reportedly spat at and pushed by road-side spectators.

Vincenzo Nibali, 2014 Tour winner, was also knocked off his bike by fans encroaching on the road and was forced to withdraw due to his injuries.

Stage 16 was eventually won by Quick-Step's French rider Julian Alaphilippe, who profited from Adam Yates' fall on the final descent to claim his second stage win of Le Tour 2018.

With the roads still slightly damp from an earlier brief downpour, Yates' wheels slipped from beneath him and he never quite regained his confidence and composure as his 25-second lead evaporated.

It was the second nasty crash of an action-packed stage, after Philippe Gilbert had earlier lost control, crashing into a wall and being spectacularly flung into a ditch.

He somehow emerged unscathed and finished the stage.

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