The PGA Tour Needs Another Star to Step Up

Author bio: Alex K. is a writer and partner at Real Money Fantasy Leagues, a website which focuses on connecting to and promoting daily fantasy sports. Although he watches all the major sports, the game of golf remains his summer passion to play and focuses on Fantasy Golf when the weather gets too cold.

The 2012 U.S. Open golf tournament provided viewers with drama until the final putt as Graeme McDowell missed the birdie attempt that would have propelled him into an 18-hole playoff with eventual winner Webb Simpson.

NBC saw a rise of 29% from last year’s ratings on a night where the PGA was competing in primetime against LeBron and Game 3 of the 2012 NBA Finals.

Ratings started off strong that day, as Tiger Woods began the day in the hunt for another golf major and remained strong long after Woods began his parade of bogeys on the front nine.

This U.S. Open showed the PGA two things:

  • Tiger Woods playing well and competing on Sunday is a big boost in the ratings
  • The PGA needs to find another star player to latch on to – or television income for the PGA will begin to dwindle as Tiger nears the end of his career

Last year saw a spark of interest with a young Rory McIlroy, first self-destructing on the back nine of Augusta, then returning to plow over the field and capture the 2011 U.S. Open.

McIlroy is charismatic, likeable, Irish, he has a great golf game and he has a beautiful professional tennis player girlfriend. The PGA was ready to anoint McIlroy as the next one, and have him be the Jack Nicklaus to Arnold Palmer, as the torch of golf greatness gets passed.

Alas, although 2012 started with Rory McIlroy lighting up the fairways and finishing 2nd, 1st and 3rd in his first three tournaments of the year, he became the number one golfer in the world and seemed like he was destined to begin a new era of great golfers.

A 40th place finish at the Masters seemed like a blip on the radar as he finished in 2nd at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.

Since that tournament, McIlroy has missed the cut three of his next four tournaments and was a disappointing non-factor at the 2012 U.S. Open.

The NBC coverage was noticeably focused on a young amateur in the field, Beau Hossler, who began the day in the top 10 but quickly fell to obscurity.

The PGA without Tiger will falter.

The last two years, while Woods recovered from injuries and a failing golf game, ratings for the PGA Tour have been poor. It has never been a secret that Woods’ career put golf back in the spotlight and made it cool to be a golfer again.

It was no longer rich professionals or retirees hitting the links, but teenagers and kids going out on Sundays with their dads to the local golf course. As the game grew, so did the merchandising and the sponsorship dollars for local tournaments.

The PGA Tour saw this, and coverage on TV when Tiger was playing was focused on him, even if he wasn’t going to win the tournament…it was about, “Can Tiger make a comeback?”

Maybe Rory McIlroy can again be that player that captures the attention of the casual fan, but many have said that he lacks the dedication to get his game to the top level.

He’s 23 and already made millions on tour and in endorsements, he has a trophy girlfriend and he’s a star already even if he has a mediocre golf game at the present time.

Tiger’s career has always been driven by shattering Jack Nicklaus’ records and the watch for how many major tournaments he can win is still speculated on every Sunday at golf country clubs.

Until a Rory Mclroy or another young phenom steps up and declares a war on golf’s historic records, the PGA Tour will undoubtedly sink back to mediocrity.

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