By The Way - Weekly Columns
Tiger TV By Robert Cross Welcome to this weeks By The Way Column, we’ve had a great run of topics from Past, Present and Future Ryder Cups, A Fairy-tale of Golf 2018 and Things that are wrong with golf (The Ball) to name a few. This week, as you can tell from the title, we’re going to look at Tiger TV. With Tigers return last week at Farmers Open, the TV coverage on days one and two was somewhat favourable. With the Big Cat not in contention at the top of the leader board, but rather grinding to stay in for the weekend, I’m going to explore why this type of coverage isn’t anything new (it’s just been missing for the last 3 years) and why it isn’t disrespectful to the other players. In 1996 a kid called Tiger turned pro, and changed the world of golf forever. Dad Earl said: "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity. He is the Chosen One.” Bit extreme, but for golf it’s hard to argue. The “Tiger” effect is difficult to measure with explicit facts and figures, but here are a few attempts at them from various sources: People calling themselves golfers rose 20% from 1996 to 2003 (7 years after Tiger turned pro), increases of 25% on the number of golf courses being built, the number of black golfers rose by 67% between 1999 and 2003. On average attendances at EVERY PGA Tour event increased by 40,000 people from 1996 to 1999 40,000 PER EVENT – that’s incredible. Chris Riley who played against Tiger in college said Woods had transcended the game, lifted the ‘nerdy’ image of golf to be ‘cooler’, he also impacted the game with his dedication to fitness "At sports bars now, people will watch golf, especially if Tiger is playing. Even if he's not playing. But pre-1996, nobody watched golf unless you were a golfer." From an article in Todays Golfer in 2015:- “When Tiger won the Masters in 1997, viewing figures were up by more than 50 per cent. Conversely, the viewing figures for 2014's Tiger-free Masters were horrendous, with final round ratings down 24 per cent year-on-year and ratings for the whole weekend dropping to their lowest level since 1993. And it's not just the Majors. A 2009 study by market research company Nielsen showed that ratings dropped by nearly 50 per cent when Tiger missed a regular tour event.” So in summary on attendance and participation, Woods increased PGA Tour attendances by 40,000 per PGA event when he played, and increased viewing figures, but when not in an event the ratings dropped by 50%. More people played golf because Tiger did, he looked like an athlete and performed like one. Golf became cooler; his standing throughout sport stands up. I read an interesting stat, that the AVERAGE AGE of the golf viewer on TV is 57. My question would be if Tiger Woods hadn’t been competing at Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines, how many people would have tuned in? This isn’t a major competition with a stellar field where all the top players in world are competing. Another interesting stat; During Tiger's first season on tour in 1997, the players competed for a total of £47.5 million. In 2015 they competed for just over $200m. From an article on Sporting Intelligence published in 2014 a certain Phil Mickelson said the below: “Look at what he’s doing for the game the last 17 years he’s played as a professional. It’s been incredible. .. I remember when I was an amateur and I won my first tournament in Tucson in 1991, the entire purse was $1 million, first place was $180,000 and Steve [Loy, my agent] and I would sit down and say, ‘I wonder if in my lifetime, probably not in my career, we would have play for a $1 million first-place check.’ “[Now] it’s every week. It’s unbelievable the growth of this game. And Tiger has been the instigator. He’s been the one that’s really propelled and driven the bus because he’s brought increased ratings, increased sponsors, increased interest and we have all benefited, but nobody has benefited more than I have, and we’re all appreciative. That’s why we miss him so much; we all know what he’s meant to the game.” Full Article is here: - http://www.sportingintelligence.com/2014/08/06/measuring-the-tiger-effect-doubling-of-tour-prize-money-billions-extra-into-players-pockets-060801/ Justin Thomas took to Twitter on Friday and asked the Golf Channel to “my friend Tom is playing pretty well can I see him please” No Justin, you can’t watch your buddy and the reason being - no one wants to see him, they want to watch the guy who changed golf makes his comeback. It’s not his 15th event of the season where he’s struggled to make every cut; this is Tiger's first chance of making it to the weekend of an “official PGA Tour” event for 3 years. AND the Golf Channel is delivering what the people want! If the Golf Channel shows your friend it’s the equivalent of an ad break – we all go and make tea. JT redeemed himself quickly by tweeting “I want to see every shot Tiger hits…… it’s why I practiced early this am! Love watching when I’m not playing. I’m a little biased toward @TomLovelady” I get it, not EVERY one wants to watch Tiger. But looking at the ratings, attendance, prize money, sponsorship, golfers fitness etc etc – it would seem a LOT of people do. The quality of golf is awesome and there are some real stars emerging, but in reality the best viewed events are The Masters, US Open, The Open, USPGA, The Players and WGC events. This is when the BEST players in the world compete and go head to head. Many PGA Tour events, schedule dependant do not have all the stars, they will have some of them – who do the Golf Channel (or any other TV stations) show? The fields are seriously diluted. Yes, they show the best players, or the star draws, the players who will get the most ratings, the most viewers. Why do events pay appearance fees to players? Yep, you guessed it, so more people attend, or watch the event. It really isn’t rocket science to see why Tiger got this type of coverage on Thurs/Friday. I tuned in on the Saturday and Sunday and have to say, I can’t remember if every shot was covered, but I didn’t feel like the leaders were neglected as the final day back nine started. I wanted to watch Tiger though; it was fun having him back. He’s been missed. It seems some people have very short memories; this type of coverage IS NO different to what was shown when Tiger was winning everything in sight. Just because we have a huge array of talent in the current game, doesn’t mean we should forget about a player who changed the game. During his prime, Jack Nicklaus, would have been a prize draw, similar to Tiger. Did he still get the same amount of coverage as his years increased? Winning The Masters in ’86 at the age of 46, is still repeated now. Did people stop wanting to watch him? No, people continued to support a hugely successful golfer who they had followed over 20 years. Tiger is no different; those of us who have watched him change golf in many different ways still want to watch him. It’s not disrespectful to the other golfers, even if they aren’t shown on TV (and do you think they go back and watch the coverage and get upset if they aren’t shown?), they should be grateful of his legacy, to follow in his footsteps and embrace being a golfer in the same era as a guy who will go down as one, if not THE Greatest of all Time. A high percentage of the golfers coming through took up the game because of him. Enjoy it, he won’t be around forever – then what ? Will be people be glad they get to watch golf without Tiger – or will they switch off and not watch golf at all.......
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