Thursday, March 2, 2023

The PGA Tour Forgets What It's About

The PGA Tour’s move to more no-cut tournaments neglects one of the most important reasons viewers watch golf tournaments. There has to be a compelling story to draw viewer interest. If not, you just have another LIV event with its dismal Nielsen ratings. The recent Honda Classic is a good example.  The tournament came down to a contest between Chris Kirk and Eric Cole. Kirk is making a comeback after fighting alcoholism.  Cole, who has own health problems, had a world golf ranking so low you wondered how he got into the tournament—until you saw his swing. Both players accredited themselves well in an exciting playoff.  They displayed class in winning and losing and showcased what the PGA Tour should be about.  To paraphrase the NFL, "On any given Sunday" anyone can win and not just the top 70.

Rory McElroy, who has turned into a flack for the Commissioner’s office, has said, “You ask Mastercard or whoever it is to pay $20 million for a golf event, they want to see the stars on the weekend.” The counter argument is, “If you can’t be in the top 65 and ties after Friday, are you really a star?  And do you want to see Rory with an early Sunday tee time fighting to come in 49th?  And if Rory is correct, what about the sponsors of non-designated events?  They are guaranteed to have few or no "stars."   Treating a tournament as a second-class citizen may have been the reason Honda dropped is sponsorship of the Honda Classic after 42 years. Will the Tour be better off if sponsors in a similar position head for the exits?

Then there are some statistical problems that need to be answered.  First, World Golf Rankings (WGR) are a lagging indicator of performance.  Jon Rahm, for example, can play like a dog for a year and probably not fall out of the top 70.  The new format sounds more like a closed union shop than a meritocracy.  Second, is the WGR really that accurate?  Are the top 70 really the top 70?   Probably not.  But if you have the top 156 playing, you will most certainly have the real top 70 players teeing it up.

Aping LIV by going to more no-cut tournaments is both hypocritical and bad for business. The PGA Tour owes it success in part to nurturing young players to replace aging stars. If young players see limited opportunity, they will direct their talents elsewhere.  That will not be good for the health of the game or for the Tour.    

1 comment:

  1. Laurence - Please would you be so kind to share your email address ? ; I have a separate topic (Stroke Index Allocation) I have some thoughts about and would appreciate your perspective… I can be contacted at many thanks. DCH