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.
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry