Golf: PGA chief says rise in TV viewers, sponsors due to new young gun generation

Although the PGA Tour enjoyed a stellar year in general, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy said he has had a year to forget.
Although the PGA Tour enjoyed a stellar year in general, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy said he has had a year to forget.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PGA chief says rise in TV viewers, sponsors is down to new generation of star golfers

ATLANTA • PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the emerging crop of young golf stars had made 2015 "the strongest year we have had on the PGA Tour, period".

Calling the season "A-Plus, five-star", Finchem gushed about the youth movement on the Tour and the quality of play that not only made this year such a success but augured well for the future.

"Roughly 50 per cent of all the tournaments in the last two years have been won by players in their 20s," he said in a "State of the PGA" press conference at the sidelines of the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

"When you think about Jordan (Spieth), Rickie (Fowler), Rory (McIlroy) and Jason (Day), followed right behind by players like (Robert) Streb and (Danny) Lee and (Brooks) Koepka, it's a continuing waterfall of talent."

Finchem said television ratings illustrated the impact of the rise of the new wave.

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Our broadcast numbers are up over 20 per cent over the previous year, which is a stunning increase and has to do with the number of play-offs, the attractiveness of the players who are competing and winning.

TIM FINCHEM PGA Tour commissioner

"Our broadcast numbers are up over 20 per cent over the previous year, which is a stunning increase and has to do with the number of play-offs, the attractiveness of the players who are competing and winning," he added.

"And all that adds up to us being very bullish as we look forward to the next four or five years."

The commissioner also cited a series of long-term extensions of sponsorship deals that were reached as a sign of the health of the Tour.

"Over 60 per cent of our tournaments are at five years or in excess of five years in their commitment," he said.

Finchem also said there were pronounced gains in new media, including the launch of PGA Tour live, and social media, with 36.5 million people in the United States following Tour players, tournaments and the PGA Tour brand.

"So, in a nutshell, I would say we had an A-plus year, a five-star year," he said.

For McIlroy, however, it is a year that he is looking forward to turning the page on.

The former world No. 1 has endured a mixed season, suffering an ankle injury which ruled him out of the Open Championship and failing to add to his haul of four Major titles.

The 26-year-old Northern Irishman said 2015 was a "learning curve" that he would be happy to see the back of.

"It hasn't been the season I hoped for," he told reporters in Atlanta ahead of yesterday's opening round at East Lake.

"Going without a Major, missing arguably the biggest tournament we (British) have - the Open championship at St Andrews, which only comes around every five years - having to sit that one out," said the world No. 2.

"There's been a few disappointing moments; there's been a few highs as well.

"But 2015 won't be a year that I look back on at the end of my career. It was a bit of a learning curve but not one with great success."

Asked what lessons he had learned from the year, he joked ruefully "Don't play football in the middle of the season!" - a reference to the game of football with friends which left him crocked.

"It's just been a difficult year. Humbling if nothing else," he added. REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Young guns fire 'A-plus' tour season'. Print Edition | Subscribe