Golf ratings post-Tiger Woods are always going to be under a microscope. And while the sport may not reach those heights again for a very long time (if ever) it is fair to wonder where the sport is going to settle in on the American sports landscape.
It’s a fascinating time for the game of golf, where seven out of the last eight major champions were first-time winners. During the PGA Championship on Sunday only one person in contention, Louis Oosthuizen, had a major championship to his name as the rest were all fighting for their first.
Quail Hollow represented a decent challenge for the field, and even though Spieth, McIlroy, and Mickelson weren’t on the leaderboard, it was still a solid collection of previous PGA Tour winners. In the end, 24 year old Justin Thomas prevailed to win his first major thanks to some thrilling shotmaking on the back nine.
WOW is right.
Justin Thomas with the massive birdie chip to take a two shot lead.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) August 13, 2017
However, it didn’t necessarily translate into great ratings. In fact, this year’s PGA Championship was the lowest rated since 2008 with just a 3.2 rating according to Sports Media Watch. It also finished as the least watched major of the year with a final round of 4.9 million viewers, just a few thousand behind the British Open on NBC.
Unfortunately for the PGA, these numbers are par for the course (excuse the pun) for major championship ratings in recent years. We’ve seen numbers trend towards multi-year lows all over the place, regardless of the tournament. Make no mistake about it, golf ratings are going down, but how could they not go down with the most culturally significant athlete to ever play your sport looking like his competitive playing days are done? It’s like the NBA wondering why their ratings went south after Michael Jordan retired.
So should the PGA be concerned? Yes, of course they should be concerned. Just like NASCAR or MLS or a number of other leagues and sports that are trying to gain more television viewers.
But at the same time, isn’t golf in a great position for its future with a number of young stars breaking onto the scene? Just look at some of those major winners over the last two years. Jordan Spieth is 24 and 3/4th of the way to a career grand slam. Dustin Johnson broke through and finally won his first major, rising to #1 in the world in the process. And the PGA was Thomas’ third win of the season as he’s on the verge of becoming a bonafide superstar in the game. Even Sergio Garcia won a major! About the only thing more golf can ask for is for Rickie Fowler to finally end his major drought.
Plus, all of these young guys have a camaraderie about them that can do nothing but good for the game as it moves ahead.
Jordan Spieth sneaks in the congratulatory slap on the ass for Justin Thomas pic.twitter.com/GrnJn5gHRp
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) August 13, 2017
It’s important for the sport that these guys aren’t just winning majors now, but they will be the ones winning majors for the next 10-15 years. The PGA has to start somewhere and perhaps this is a necessary rebuilding phase coming down from the high of the Tiger Era. Ratings might not be that impressive now, but as the likes of Spieth, Thomas, Johnson, Day, McIlroy, Koepka, and others win four and five and six majors, the sport may just find itself in a very strong position once again.