PGA Tour without stripes
May 4, 2014
By Dan Daly
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Sitting in the 19th hole on Saturday afternoon the bartender went around the room holding a cup filled with 20 small pieces of paper. Each had a number which correlated to a horse in the Derby. It was a blind draw with a $10 buy-in no matter the odds on your horse. While some people already had bets on the Derby, for others it was a good excuse to "have a horse in the race"…literally. Let's face it, like almost any sporting event, it's just better and more entertaining when you have a rooting interest, whether it be financial or otherwise.
Now what the hell does that have to do with golf or Quail Hollow? Well, luckily I always have the answers to my own questions. Outside of an actual horse race, the PGA tour, more than any other sport, desperately needs their big name horses in contention each week to draw ratings. As far as PGA tour horses go, Tiger Woods is the Secretariat of ratings. And before you all flood my email and Twitter with how I'm a Tiger lover or Tiger homer, that's not my opinion…that's a statistical fact. When he's in contention, no matter what the tournament is or who else is on the leaderboard the ratings blow up. Period. Everyone has an opinion on Tiger, whether they love him or hate him they all want to see him play. If he's in or near the lead over the weekend people turn on the golf tournament to watch. Like Secretariat, Tiger is in a league of his own.
However, there are definitely other big name players that can get people to tune into a PGA tournament over the weekend that they wouldn't otherwise watch. In fact, the top two on that list, Phil and Rory, shot a combined SIXTEEN under on Saturday and brought with them a whole lot of attention to Quail Hollow on Saturday afternoon and early Sunday. Unfortunately for CBS we had a hell of a horse race on Saturday but for the second year in a row the big names on the leaderboard faded and faded fast on Sunday. When Phil and Rory failed to make any sort of move, the people watching at home quickly moved on to something else. That's a huge problem for the PGA Tour right now.
There will always be the diehards that watch every week and the Majors will draw a decent TV audience no matter who's in contention, but a tournament like Quail Hollow desperately needed the big names to play well on Saturday AND Sunday. Even if they don't win, at least stay in contention until the end…especially on the heels of the rounds they put up on Saturday.
People want someone to cheer for, or even cheer against. Nothing against JB Holmes, the dude hits it a mile and it was a great win for him. Hell, even my boy Furyk put up one hell of a charge on Sunday to post a 65 and finish solo second. But when guys like Bohn, Flores, Kisner, etc are the names on the top of the leaderboard come late Sunday you can't expect people to be invested in that. People claim they like the underdog, but I assure you those people are full of shit. People like watching the Yankees, The Lakers, The Cowboys, Tiger, Phil, Sergio and Rory. Some people watch to see them win, some people watch to see them lose…but either way, people watch. The point is, sports fans need to have a horse in the race in order to watch and no one wants the horse that's 100 to 1.
If California Chrome wins the Preakness, the ratings for the Belmont will be through the roof…if he loses the Preakness the ratings for the Belmont will end up somewhere between a Rachael Ray cooking special and a 2:00 a.m. infomercial.
With The PLAYERS coming up this weekend, we are one year removed from the highest rated non-Major PGA Tour event since the Buick Invitational in 2006 (won by Tiger). In fact it was higher rated than quite a few Major Sunday's as well. The general public, along with the "golf experts," golf writers, former players, ESPN and everyone at the Golf Channel tried to keep saying for weeks last year how overblown the Tiger/Sergio ordeal was and everyone needed to move on and focus on golf. Yet the most viewed golf articles, tweets and podcasts from the "golf experts," golf writers, former players, ESPN and everyone at the Golf Channel all year last year was about the Tiger/Sergio ordeal. It was great for the PGA Tour even if the people associated with the PGA Tour didn't want to admit it.
The PGA has really gone out of their way to promote The PLAYERS over the last few years. It arguably has the best field in golf and is played on probably the second most recognizable course on tour (behind Augusta). But again, none of that matters if your goal is to bring in a broader audience. Sunday is Mother's Day and if Kevin Na, Casey Wittenberg, David Lingmerth and Jason Bohn are battling it out come Sunday afternoon then I don't care how much you promote it, no one is going out of their way to watch that ending. What will matter over the weekend is name's on the leaderboard. The bottom line is that numbers don't lie, the average golf fan doesn't really care about golf as much as they care about the big names that come with golf…they care about Tiger and Sergio and Phil and Rory.
It also doesn't help that TPC Sawgrass channeled their inner Byron Nelson and Quail Hollow and are playing on piss poor greens this week.
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