Monday, September 28

PGA Tour Season Needs a Better Ending

(Editor’s note: Robert Bruce of Game Under Repair argues for a more dramatic, clear-cut conclusion to the PGA Tour season.)

Contributed by Robert Bruce
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


DOES THE PGA TOUR have an identity problem? Take this pop quiz:

1) Name the biggest event in the NFL.
2) Name the biggest event in Major League Baseball.
3) Name the biggest event in college football.
4) Bonus Question: Name the biggest event on the PGA Tour.

Numbers 1-3 are fairly easy, right?

But is there an easy answer to the bonus question? You have several options, don’t you?

There’s your problem. The PGA Tour doesn’t have a single, grandiose season-culminating event—at least one that produces the drama it should.

With all of the major sports, the season culminates with one grand spectacle: the Super Bowl, the World Series, the hypothetical college football national championship game. No brainers.

But golf?

In my opinion, the three biggest events—in no particular order—are the Masters, U.S. Open, and Ryder Cup. And the other issue: Excluding the biennial Ryder Cup, golf’s largest events take place long before the season is even close to ending.

Granted, the Tour is trying to ramp up the latter part of the season with the FedEx Cup Playoffs, culminating with this past week’s Tour Championship. But, even so, does the hype, the media presence, the vibe for the Tour Championship even come close to matching that of the Masters? Nope.

How do you fix this?

As I’ve mentioned at my blog, the PGA Tour needs to end its season in late August, right before football starts. They need to change the format of the Tour Championship to a match-play tournament with a 32-man field.

I’m a pretty ardent golf viewer, but even I quit watching golf when football starts up. It’s just a reality. But a Tiger Woods versus Sergio Garcia winner-take-all match in late August? Now that’s pressure. That’s drama. That’s something, I believe, casual fans would watch.

When your biggest event occurs in April—or maybe June, if you are partial to the U.S. Open—then you are just setting yourself up for a large cup of anticlimactic nothing.

I watched the Tour Championship, at least during the commercial breaks. After all, the event had its share of drama. But the Tour is missing an opportunity to amp up the drama even more.

Make the season shorter. Bring in match play. Make the Tour Championship more of a spectacle. Fans should be able to point to one event on the calendar as the end-all-be-all golf event of each season. Should it really be in April?

Could the Tour Championship ever equal the Super Bowl or the World Series in popularity? No way. But the PGA Tour can do better. Much better.

Robert Bruce is a full-time writer and part-time golf blogger in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit his golf blog at www.gameunderrepair.com.

9 comments :

Lancer said...

I agree, but it will not happen because if the Tiger's and the Lefty's get bumped immediately, the party's over as far as ratings are concerned. You are right in the premise that this is the only logical way to make golf's playoff more exciting. Ratings are much more in play here than logic.

Average Golfer said...

NASCAR's Superbowl is the 1st event of the year. They maintain interest with a FedUp Cup style playoff. They have a dominant star that's won 3 in a row, on the verge of a 4th. They keep the interest level with a huge following complete with creative marketing and sponsorships.

Golf is a niche sport with a perceived snottiness attached, warranted or not. The nets will never bend over for such a small audience, Tiger or no Tiger. Imagine where golf would be ranked without him! Right below hockey, a sport I love, but virtually anonymous.

Vince Spence said...

Whoa! The one thing you definitely NOT do is bring match play into any championship equation.

I know Tiger, Phil and the best golfers on the planet want nothing to do with that format. They could win seven tournaments, two majors and shoot 64 in the first round of match play to get eliminated by Jeff Maggert shooting a 62 (remember 1999). The bottom 90, or 60 or 30 would love match play. The best golfers would not. Golf is a medal play sport except Ryder Cup, once a year on tour and 97% of the rounds I play.

Sorry, massage it any way you want. Just forget about match play. It will not work and it will never, ever happen. Plus, give me a scenario where you will have four better tournaments than we just had in the past five weeks AFTER the PGA Championship. It has never happened.

Robert said...

True point. But I can't imagine ratings were that good this weekend anyway, considering the NFL and college football. I haven't seen the numbers.

Whether or not they change the format, they need to shorten the season to end in August. It's too much like Nascar and hockey...oversaturation.

Robert said...

Vince, you are right. The last four tournaments were great. But no one watched! The Tour had its biggest two horses at the top of the Tour Championship, and no one gave it a rip because everyone was watching football.

If the Tour wants people to actually watch more than The Masters and The US Open, a season-ending match play, in August, is the way to go. The whole fact that Jeff Maggert could win is what makes it so dramatic. How fun is the NCAA Tournament to watch?

That's the whole point. Wildcard teams win the Super Bowl. George Mason makes it to the Final Four. That's drama. And the PGA Tour doesn't have much of it in September. At least enough of it for anyone to watch.

Vince Spence said...

The ratings were double last year. I think instead of 10 golf bloggers, 20 golf bloggers tuned in this year. Everybody in Baltimore was watching the Ravens win their third straight.

Vince Spence said...

Great point, Robert. Believe me, I love match play. Living and dying eighteen times per round!! Priceless.

I'm pretty sure George Mason waxed Maryland that year, so I hate their guts forever. But, it made for great viewing.

Ottawa Golf Blog said...

I watch a lot of golf and I only tuned in on Sunday I'm sure the ratings weren't great. Identity problem maybe? Lots of $$$$ yes. FedEX Cup will be tweaked again'm sure.

Andy Brown of GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com said...

A major as the season finale won’t be the worst idea. While this time the Tour Championship was worth a watch not only because all the big guys were playing, but because the big guys were in it, it can undoubtedly be made better and bigger. Having a gala final event before the season is called to an end, at least by those who aren’t working over time to buy tickets for the next season, will be great. Get in the Palmer and Nicklaus to come out and make the tee-off more spectacular, keep the field really tight and keep cutting it down each day. It would be drastic, but it might just be a whole lot more fun than now. It is worth an experiment for sure.

But having said that, one thing that deserves to be said is that even though the PGA Tour copped a lot of criticism for the FedEx Cup and its many flaws, they stuck by it, even rectified the mistakes and now what you have is a brilliant season finale that sees almost all the top names in action. Surely they deserve quite a lot of credit for that.

My real problem is that the Majors are all piled in close to each other, and really for a great part in the beginning of the year and towards the end, there is no tournament to match the Major thrill but I am not sure what can be done about that.