There is no doubt the PGA Tour has been exciting this year. I can’t remember so many closely contested events that have literally come down to the last hole to decide the eventual winner. It seems like every week the winner has to hole a last minute putt or win in a playoff. This theatre is no doubt exciting. Here is my question, “Would you rather watch this type of golf or watch Tiger dominate every player in the field?” I seem to get the same answer when asking this very question to friends. They almost all say, I would rather watch a closely contested tournament and not a blow out. Is this good for golf, however?
Tiger had a very Tigeresque year in 2007. He finished with almost 11 million dollars that year in prize money, which doubled the second place player. He won 7 times which included a major – the PGA Championship. Easy to say this was complete domination. In 2008 Tiger won the US Open. We all remember that open when he beat Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff. He took the rest of the year off as he had a season ending knee surgery.
I researched Nielsen and compared the ratings for tournaments Tiger played in during his 2007 campaign and those he didn’t play the second half of 2008. When comparing the events Tiger played in during the 2007 year versus those he didn’t play in during the 2008 season, the ratings were roughly doubled. What does this mean? Two times the amount of people tuned in to watch Tiger in 2007 versus those same tournaments in 2008. Now, granted these figures are dated a bit but I don’t think anyone can say that golf is better without Tiger.
Economic Impact: I remember having lunch with my father and Peter Kostis at Grayhawk during my spring break from college in 1995. I knew Tiger and competed against him regularly in junior golf and college golf. I knew how good he was much before the world got its first glimpse. Peter made a comment during that lunch that I couldn’t believe at the time. He said, “Tiger’s presence on tour will double the purses.” I remember not really believing this, but it happened. As soon as Tiger played his way onto the PGA Tour, after his last US Amateur win in 1996, the tournament purses did indeed double.
How can one player have such an influence on prize money? The answer is simple and it backs my argument that golf is much better when Tiger plays. When a player single handily doubles Nielsen, advertisers can charge more for commercial spots. Title sponsors are more willing to spend precious dollars on tournaments and all of this means more money for players.
So what does the future hold? Well, that is anyone’s guess. The PGA Tour will still thrive but I don’t feel its popularity without Tiger. I personally feel that golf with Tiger is better than golf without Tiger. I for one feel that, if healthy, Tiger will return to prominence and regain his number one status in the world rankings. When this happens, ratings will once again climb and golf will be much more economically viable. Make no mistake, this is good for the game.
John Stahlschmidt is the PGA Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy at TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. To comment or to schedule a lesson, email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.