Tiger at Core of TV Talks
Tiger Woods shattered records at the 1997 Masters, becoming the youngest winner (21) by the widest margin (12 shots) and giving golf its highest TV rating (14.1) in the cable era. The tour met with networks a month later and reached a four-year deal worth about $650 million, twice as much as the previous contract.
The summer after Woods completed his 'Tiger Slam' by winning his fourth straight major at the '01 Masters, the tour negotiated the 2003-06 contract that was worth close to $900 million. What also helped is that the deal was done in July, two months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks plunged the economy into a deep recession.
The next round of negotiations might be a little more sticky.
The tour is expected to start meeting with networks next summer, and Tigermania is at an all-time low. Woods has gone 10 majors without winning, matching the longest drought of his career. His only victory this year was in February, and three players - Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson - have grabbed most of the headlines.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is optimistic as ever.
Even though Woods has proven to be the only player who can spike ratings, Finchem finds compelling story lines with Mickelson winning his first major and contending in the other three; and with Singh pursuing Woods at No. 1 in the world ranking and having a chance to break his single-season earnings record.
Finchem also notes that with the economy slowly turning around, the tour already has signed up 10 title sponsors through 2010, the end of the next TV contract.
'I think we're in a reasonably good place,' Finchem said in a recent interview. 'I don't think we're going to see the kind of growth rate over the next five years that we've seen in the last five or six years. On the other hand, we're going to see growth in our charitable contributions, growth in our purses and growth in the overall fan base.
'And that's what is important in the long run.'
Complicating matters is that the PGA Tour probably will have to get in line when it comes to a new TV contract. The networks face a busy year in negotiating deals with the NFL and NASCAR
'It's going to limit golf's flexibility,' said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports. 'One is, they take a lot of money out of the market. Whatever happens with the NFL and NASCAR will influence PGA negotiations.'
What also concerns Pilson is the rising cost of doing business in golf. He said network profit margins are not nearly as high as they were, although Pilson is not convinced that networks are losing money on golf.
Finchem attributes any shrinking margins to the state of the economy.
'We just had a three-year recession,' Finchem said. 'No one made money during the recession. But I think it's improving nicely. And again, you have to remember that a very significant percentage of all revenue that goes to the networks is from sponsors, and we've been fully sponsored.'
One area where there is little room for debate is the ratings, which indelibly are tied to Woods' performance.
David Toms recently asked Finchem what he thought about so many international players winning. What prompted the question was upcoming TV negotiations.
'I've had a couple of older players, even Senior tour players, say with the TV deal coming up, it would be great for Tiger to be winning and dominating,' Toms said. 'Because TV ratings go up when he's playing well.'
That much was clear at the Masters, which many believe was the most thrilling Sunday at Augusta National since Jack Nicklaus won in 1986 at age 46. Mickelson birdied five of his last seven holes, making an 18-foot birdie on the 18th to win by one shot over Els.
And yet, the Sunday overnight rating of 7.3 was down about 20 percent from the previous year, when Mike Weir defeated Len Mattiace in a playoff. Woods didn't contend in either Masters.
At the PGA Championship, which featured the first three-way playoff at that major, the overnight rating of 4.9 was slightly higher than when Shaun Micheel won at Oak Hill in 2003 - but it was down 41 percent from 2002, when Rich Beem held off Woods at Hazeltine.
The Los Angeles Times reported that going into the NEC Invitational, ratings were down from last year in 17 of the 30 rounds Woods has played on the weekend.
And if Woods does turn his game around in time for the next round of contracts?
'I think there was more of a forecast the last time around on the surge in golf with Tiger hitting his stride,' said David Carter of Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group. 'The Tiger factor was built into the last contract. You wonder if the next time around, whether they can draw upon that even further.'
Pilson, however, does not believe TV negotiations are tied to one player - even if that one player is golf's biggest star. The reason Woods spikes ratings is because he attracts the mainstream audience, while everyone else appeals to strictly golf fans.
But as Pilson points out, golf fans aren't a bad audience for advertisers.
'Both the PGA Tour and the networks understood that Tiger wasn't going to win every tournament, and he was probably on a run that could not be sustained,' Pilson said. 'Golf has a solid, reliable audience - a good demographic mix, well-educated, affluent. What they basically win or lose with Tiger is the casual golf audience.
'What they fundamentally sell is the golf audience.'
Still, it all goes back to the time Woods was holding court with Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke, regaling them with adventurous tales and some of the risks involved with diving.
'Just be careful down there,' Bjorn told him. 'Our future earnings depend on you.'
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it
There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.
There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.
Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.
The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."
Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:
If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.
“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”
The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.
Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).
We followed our defending champion Toto Gana during his registration! He even did his Donald Duck impression!— LAAC (@LAAC_Golf) January 17, 2018
Acompañamos a Toto Gana, defensor del título, durante todo el proceso de acreditación. ¡Incluso imitó a Donald Duck!#LAAC2018 pic.twitter.com/NGh7hS4cCz
Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in
There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.
Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.
While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.
Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:
1. Brooks Koepka
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Justin Thomas
5. Jordan Spieth
6. Rickie Fowler
7. Bubba Watson
8. Webb Simpson
9. Bryson DeChambeau
10. Phil Mickelson
11. Matt Kuchar
12. Brian Harman
On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.
Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:
1. Tyrrell Hatton
2. Justin Rose
3. Tommy Fleetwood
4. Francesco Molinari
5. Thorbjorn Olesen
6. Ross Fisher
1. Jon Rahm
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Alex Noren
4. Matthew Fitzpatrick
5. Ian Poulter
6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win
Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.
Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.
The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.
The second is from Sunday night.
And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.
Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win
After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.
Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.
It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.
Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.
Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.