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Why Are Millions of Golf Fans Switching Off Their TVs

By: | Mon 22 Apr 2024

A worrying statistic emerged as the dust settled on The Masters

It is traditionally the most-watched golf tournament on the planet but CBS in America revealed that its viewing figures had fallen from well over 12 million in 2023 to less than 10 million this time around. Not even the much-anticipated return of Tiger Woods could save the day.

This is in line with what is happening with regular PGA Tour events, which have all seen a worrying fall in viewing figures in 2024. This year’s figures were the third-worst in Masters history - only 2020 and 2021, at the height of the Covid pandemic, were worse.

And the figures for the final round on Sunday were 20% lower than 2023 - the fact that Woods had recorded his worst-ever score at Augusta the previous day probably didn’t help.

However, the figures for the first two rounds of ESPN’s live coverage attracted the largest two-day average for its 3pm coverage since 2018, according to Nielsen Fast National data.

A two-day average of 3.4 million viewers watched the live coverage from Augusta, including 3.2 million for the first round on Thursday and 3.6 million for the second round on Friday.

The audience of 3.6 million for the second round was up 69% over the viewership average of 2.1 million for the rain-delayed second round in 2023. Friday’s audience peaked at 3.9 million in the 5:30 p.m. quarter-hour. On Friday morning, ESPN also aired live coverage of the conclusion of the first round, which was suspended on Thursday due to darkness. The telecast averaged 922,000 viewers from 7:45-10 a.m.

There is little doubt that those figures were as high as they were because people were tuning in to see how Woods fared.

Tiger Woods

So why were the overall figures so poor? There are a couple of reasons:

As good as Scottie Scheffler is (and he is VERY, VERY good), he is not box office. He does everything really well and I am a huge admirer but he would probably be the first to admit that he does not possess a huge amount of charisma. And his interviews are hardly edge-of-the-seat stuff.

I guarantee that had Woods managed to kick off his Augusta challenge with a 67 or a 68 then huge numbers of people would have tuned in to watch him. But, quite frankly, nobody wants to see the 15-time major champion make the cut and then spend the weekend leaving us all wondering if he is going to be able to complete 72 holes.

I also believe that had Rory McIlroy gone to Augusta National in prime form then the TV audience would have been much larger as people tuned in to see his latest attempt to secure the career grand slam. A resurgent Jordan Spieth might also have moved the dial.

McIlroy hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in 10 months. Spieth, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay haven’t won in two years.

The worrying thing for the PGA Tour is that this is a growing trend at a time when other sports are growing in popularity.

And then, of course, there is the LIV factor. The likes of Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are spending most of their lives on a tour that struggles to reach 200,000 viewers.

There is no doubt that your average golf fan is just plain fed up with the way that professional golf has been split by the arrival of LIV. We are all weary of the defections, the talk about money and the rumours about who will be the next player to make the move. Although the PGA Tour will be relieved to have heard McIlroy say that he is going nowhere and will be finishing his career there.

It is a harsh reality that without TV money, professional golf is not profitable. And without TV viewers, even the Saudi mega-money will not be enough to keep professional golf afloat as we move forward. 

It is abundantly clear to everybody that we must find a solution that will bring golf’s best players together for more than four weeks a year. 

The problem is that we seem to be no nearer finding an answer than we were when PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a deal was in the offing in June last year.

If it continues, golf fans will continue to switch off their TVs in their droves - and there will be no way back.

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What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: PGA Tour LIV Golf european tour dp world tour

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