Tiger Effect in Reverse
The PGA Tour needs a popularity transfusion. As the tour begins its talks with the TV networks, the contract story is a perplexing one indeed. As Tigers wins are down to the lowest point of his career (one, equaling 1998), so is the money professional golf can expect in the future from television.
Television is a true believer in the adage that as Tiger goes, so goes the PGA Tour. And statistics back them up.
The ratings for last weeks Deutsche Bank Open tell an eye-opening story, typifying just how much Eldrick means to the big eye ' and to the tour. With Tiger and Vijay Singh battling not only for the win, but for the No. 1 world ranking, the event drew a 4.3 rating and 9 share in the overnight markets on Labor Day. And that doesnt even include six major markets in Florida that couldnt report because of Hurricane Francis. A 4.3 is right on par with what the majors did this year.
Woods win at the 97 Masters drew a ratings number of 14.1, an all-time record for golf in the cable-TV era. He won by a whopping 12 shots ' not much drama there, but oh, so many people were watching on the telly!
Contrast that with the ratings for this years Masters. Phil Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes, including an 18-footer at No. 18, to overtake Ernie Els in a thrilling victory. Both players are at the top of their profession. Mickelson, by all accounts, is second only to Woods in fan appeal. You dont get much more drama than this one had.
And the Masters this year could pull no more than 7.3. Thats little more than half the 14.1 of 98.
Its no wonder that the tour is quietly pulling hard to Woods to snap out of his drought by the end of the year. The tour is silently saying he should go back to Butch Harmon, he should go back to his old swing, go back to anything that might have helped him win 40 victories. And by the way, do it quickly! There isnt much time left!
Apparently, if Tiger isnt going to be winning eight times, as he did in 99, or nine times, as he did in 2000, you the public just dont have as much interest in golf. And if you the public dont have as much interest, the networks certainly dont. There are not many things worse than having a tournament with Jim Nantz whispering in reverence while nobody bothers to watch.
In 1997, with Tigers immaculate timing at the Masters, television was willing to cough up about $650 million for the next four years. That was almost twice as much as the previous four years. The previous four years showcased Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Nick Price and Fred Couples, but you the public didnt really get into it the way you did with Woods.
The next TV contract was even more of a windfall. After Woods had completed his Tiger Slam, winning four majors in succession, television stepped up big to the tune of $900 million. That is the contract under which the networks are laboring now - a mega-fortune that, frankly, is not supported by ratings.
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem reasons that the ratings have taken such a drastic slide because of the overall economic slump since 9/11. That probably does provide a partial explanation. But Finchem has to hang his negotiating hat on SOMETHING ' and the ol 9/11 thing is as good as any. A Tiger rebound, though, would blow the 9/11 theory completely out of the water. And a continued Tiger slumber would continue to limit the tour vis--vis TV contracts.
You might feel a bit more sympathy for the tour were it not so ruthless in demanding more-more-more from the individual tournaments since Tiger came on the scene. A rising tide floats all boats, so the theory goes, and all the tournaments must pitch in when a cash cow (read Tiger) shows up once a century or so. Tiger is never going to play in Houston or Honda or at the Bob Hope, for example, but those events had to pitch in with a much higher purse just as if Woods were on the marquee. Finchem has twisted arms until these tournaments were ready to cry uncle, and dont you believe that theyll ever see any revenue from the Great Woods Experiment.
More sponsors are waiting, though. The Associated Press reports that 10 sponsors have signed up through 2010. But Ill bet a dollar to a dingbat that they are not Bank of America, Valero, 84 Lumber or the Southern Farm Bureau ' all sponsors of tournaments in which Tiger doesnt participate.
Certainly, a part of golfs appeal to sponsors is based on the caliber of the audience. Golfers have more money to spend, ergo golf is going to attract businesses that have products to sell. That appeal is endless, whether Tiger is around to help sell or not. And there is much anecdotal evidence that Tiger attracts a large number of fans that are not in the ideal demographic range. Many are younger, and many are below the desired income level.
But lets face it ' Tiger Woods has the ability to attract a huge audience base. And its an ability that no other golfer has. The PGA Tour is quite cognizant of this.
Unfortunately for the tour, so are the networks. Remember ' as Tiger goes, so goes the tours pocketbook.
Email your thoughts to George White
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.
The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.
There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18