Starting Lineups: Does the PGA Even Have A Post-Tiger Plan?

A Sports Scribe, Golf — By on April 22, 2014 at 10:41 am

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I have a few friends that are more than just weekend golfers, including one who could have made some major pro dollars if not for injury. As for myself, the closest I’ve ever been to the game was awkwardly hacking and wacking on a driving range in suburban Massachusetts several years ago.

That is all to say that my lack of knowledge and experience in the sport compared to, say, our friend Dillon, is laughable. I could certainly name a dozen or so golfers, but only because of my pulse on the sports world and intrigue of the business behind the game. Yet, write-ups discussing the potential post-Tiger Woods golf world get my attention because it seems as if the PGA still has a bit of an issue getting those massive audiences when he’s not on the course.

And then there’s this: The Coming Tiger Crash. The numbers are absolutely staggering.

I know numbers can be massaged and estimates are really wild guesses created by MBAs with Excel formulas, but how can an industry lose FIFTEEN BILLION DOLLARS without its best pitchman?

Here’s the thing that gets to me. Whether that amount is accurate or not, I find it hard to feel sorry for the PGA or even the sport of golf. The PGA’s outreach to include more minority players has been beyond poor and the promotion anyone beyond Tiger, Phil Mickelson or whomever may win a major at any given time is just as bleak. No sport is as dependent on one figure – not even other individual sports like boxing, MMA and tennis, believe it or not –  as golf has been on Woods.

You would have thought that the PGA and other interested parties would have used some of Tiger’s recent absences to better steel itself against such a reversal in fortune. Or perhaps the Tiger Woods era is an anomaly in the history of golf. Maybe the sport and the PGA was never meant to have someone who was such a draw beyond their own passionate, but niche fans. Yet, because Woods had “the Jordan effect” sports leagues dream of – a mainstream appeal of non-sports fans plus the obsessive “stan”-nature the great ones inspire – there was no choice but to ride the gravy train.

Either way, whatever plans the golf world has in mind to prepare for the day Tiger joins the Senior Tour (or worse, is gone for good), it could be time to take them to the next level.

Link time:

‘Field of Dreams’ Cast Will Have a Father’s Day Reunion for Film’s 25th Anniversary - Yahoo! Sports

Marriage of Inconvenience Brings New York City FC, Yankee Stadium Together – FOX Sports

Here Comes the Pizza… Forever – Deadspin

All Downhill From Here – Sports on Earth

Nike’s Fuelband Hits the Wall - Bloomberg Businessweek

Marathon Veteran Makes the Simplest, Most Perfect Boston Marathon Sign – For the Win

The Only Watch That NASA Astronauts Trust with Their Lives – WIRED

The Future of How We Watch Television Is In the Hands of the Supreme Court – ThinkProgress

Sager Heartened by Support from Popovich, NBA – Sports Illustrated (#GetWellSager)

How to Solve a Rubix’s Cube – The Onion

J. Clinkscales

Jason is the co-host of The Exchange on BlogTalkRadio with Sumit Dasgupta (@skd_thExchange) and the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Also a vastly undersized PF.

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    4 Comments

  • DL says:

    Word on the street is that the game of golf as a whole is withering a tad, both from an attendance and a playing rate. Not that it’s significant, but I wonder how our generation and future generations (ones that are more diverse and not as drawn to the game) will affect future numbers.

    Does that have anything to do with the PGA? I’m not sure. Golf’s always been more of a niche sport and Tiger brought them into the mainstream more than ever. i’m not sure that’s sustainable unless more dynamic personalities can replicate Tiger’s cache.

    Good read Jason. Well done.

  • Dillon Friday says:

    You answered many of the questions, Jason. The biggest concern is as you said the PGA capitalized on Tiger’s rise without having an exit strategy. Sponsorship went up, payouts went up, new golf courses went up. Golf, nor anyone else, is going to say no to the kind of money that was coming in.
    Now, the PGA is trying different things to make the game more appealing. There is the drive, chip, and putt initiative which is meant to make the game easier for the youth. There is the “While we’re young” campaign to speed up the play of professionals. (Really? People aren’t watching because the play is too slow?)
    The bottom line is two-fold here. Tiger is as unique an athlete to have ever graced this Earth and there’s no hyperbole there. He had a background story. He was the first great black and Asian-American player. Nike jumped into golf because of Tiger. Gatorade got into golf because of Tiger. EA Sports got into golf because of Tiger. There just isn’t another player who has that kind of cultural and economic pull. Jordan Spieth is a tremendous player at 20. Rory McIlroy has two majors and is still just 24. Neither is going to move the needle unless they win every tournament from here on out.
    And finally, there’s the nature of golf itself. It tends to embrace tradition rather than welcome change. The language is the same. The etiquette is the same. The sense of honor is the same. Any aberration from that tends to ruffle feathers. In other words, the powers that be will never allow the sort of radical change that might be necessary in the coming years.

    • JAG says:

      There’s no question that a post Tiger slump cannot be avoided. But I agree that more could have been done to bring the sport to the masses.

      There is a traditional faction in golf that wants to keep it a country club, blue blood sport. They still carry a great deal of power. Look at all the trouble it took to get a couple of females into Augusta.

      Many have made out very well by bellying up to the Tiger trough. They aren’t that concerned about those who have to figure out how to keep it going.

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