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The PGA Tour: Life After Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth USA

The PGA Tour: Life After Tiger Woods

BY Kevin Krest

@KevinKrest

While Tiger Woods is free diving for lobster off the coast of wherever (Jimmy Buffett could use that as a song title), the young and not so young anymore guns are bombing drives and sinking putts in professional golf tournaments around the world. But like Palmer before him, Woods’ long lasting effect on purses and style of play will be felt on tour for a generation or more. When Woods joined The Tour in September of 1996 (and by the way, entered seven tournaments, won twice and qualified for the Tour Championship), purses on the PGA Tour totaled just over $69 million. Ten years later, after Woods’ incredible run, they topped $257 million, an increase of a whopping 272%. Not even college tuition increased that much during the same time frame. Okay, you say, sports salaries and purses have been increasing like that forever. Not really. In the decade since, golfers have seen a modest increase of 27% in the amount of money they play for bringing the increase during Tiger’s career to a whopping rise of 373%. The increase from 2006 to 2016 is just a little more than the entire amount they competed for when Tiger turned professional.

Whether Tiger Woods returns to The Tour or not, the monetary effect of his impact should be recognized and appreciated immensely by the current crop of players. This isn’t to say they don’t, but if not, they certainly need to. So where does The Tour move from here? In the absence of a truly dominant player, how does new commissioner Jay Monahan advance the brand and the prize money? It’s truly a challenge, especially as favorites like Phil Mickelson reach the end of his career, but a few things are happening that will make his job a bit easier.  The first goes by the name of Jordan Spieth, and he is beginning to look very Tiger Woods-ish.  He recently won the Open Championship to collect his third major win just before his 24th birthday.  With a victory this week, he would surpass Tiger as the youngest player to win the career grand slam. It would be quite an accomplishment at any age, considering that Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Sam Snead, Tom Watson and Raymond Floyd, among others, failed to win all of the majors in their storied careers. The important thing for The Tour is that he’s young, likable, extremely talented and an American. I know in this global age that last attribute shouldn’t matter, but there’s not a huge difference between Spieth and Irishman Rory McIlroy in terms of success, but there certainly is in how they’re received in the United States.

Even though fellow Americans Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas haven’t had the same level of major tournament success as Spieth, they form a very strong contingent of American golfers who play at a consistent enough level to be in contention on a regular basis. The most dominant aspect of Tiger Woods was that not only did he win a lot, but for the first several years of his career he never missed a cut. Sponsors could rely on the fact that when he played, there was almost a 100% chance he would be around for the weekend.  With a group of popular stars, and we can add the likes of Australian Jason Day, McIlroy when he’s interested in what he’s doing and Japanese sensation Hideki Matsuyama, someone that people want to see is likely to be at or near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. That’s critical as network broadcast deals and tournament sponsorships are up for negotiation or renewal.  If the PGA Tour can’t keep the ratings and sponsorships flowing, those purses are likely to head in the opposite direction.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about the impact of moving the PGA Championship to May and potentially shortening the season so the FedEx Playoffs would end prior to the NFL season. Overall, I believe that’s a positive, but they’ll still need to contend with having to cut the tournaments that are currently played between the end of the playoffs and the beginning of the “silly season”. Those events had been bolstered, in part, by the decision to have FedEx points awarded and creating a wrap-around season that begins in one year and continues in the next. Not a bad idea, except it created a virtual year-round schedule that, especially for the top Americans, was very difficult to navigate since they play in the President’s Cup one year and the Ryder Cup the next. I don’t think The Tour will be able to put the ketchup back in the bottle, so they’ll need to come up with a way to keep the attraction of the fall tournaments without penalizing players who want a true offseason. Again, in an earlier post, I floated the idea of using those tournaments as qualifying for the four majors and The Players, with each one designated as a qualifier for a particular event and a cumulative system that would award the winner with entry into all five, or at least those that they weren’t already qualified for.

Overall, I think the PGA Tour is in a solid position currently and heading into the future. The leadership and the players need to continue to adapt to a changing sports landscape and come up with creative ways to attract and retain fans. Whether it’s shorter events, a partner tournament with the LPGA or even different scoring methods, they’ll need to evolve in ways they haven’t needed to in the past. I’m definitely a traditionalist, so if I advocate that creativity is essential, then the need for continued change probably isn’t a radical idea.

 

[Photo: USA Today Sports Images
h/t PGA.com]

 

 

For more follow Kevin Krest on Twitter @KevinKrest and don’t forget to check out my new book, “Offsetting Penalties – A PK Frazier Novel” and my first two, “Illegal Procedure – A PK Frazier Novel” and “Roughing the Passer – A PK Frazier Novel”, available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.  Tune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on “Lou in the Morning” with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.

The PGA Tour: Life After Tiger Woods


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