As The FedEx Cup Finale Begins, The Tour Discusses Schedule Changes
Numbers don’t lie. Television ratings for golf begin to suck sweaty balls the second the college and NFL football seasons begin in earnest around Labor Day weekend. Golf isn’t as universally accepted or loved as a big game on the gridiron. That is a fact. It won’t change in our lifetime. I’m fine with it, I love me some football too and as much as I love golf I have to make myself watch some of the fall events that occur after the Fed Ex Cup playoffs end. So what can the Tour do to try to optimize the eyeballs their beloved Fed Ex events get? Flip the schedule again, of course.
The birth of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs was a major tweak to the PGA Tour season schedule in itself. Remember, before the playoffs we had nothing but silly golf, weak full field events, and then a random 30 man field somewhere in a fairly warm climate around the first week of November. No one watched that either. The Fed Ex schedule initially created a spark but now nearly a decade into it the newness has worn off. The format is still confusing. And the Tour still loses too many valuable viewers to pigskin. You can rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic all you want, but the solution is to simply avoid putting your prime events up against NFL Sundays, period.
Tim Finchem held a presser this week which will likely be his last as commissioner. His 2nd in command, Jay Monahan will take his over as the big cheese in 2017. His fingerprints will be all over the task of fixing the Fed Ex events TV ratings. The rumored changes involve moving the Players Championship back to March where it was played from its inception until 9 years ago when it was moved to May. The Tour has figured out that the course is too hard to prep for play in May. A March date will get more publicity as the first big event of the season.
The next rumored major schedule change is getting the PGA of America to move its major championship to May. Ok, that’s possible, but now you’re starting to lose me because moving both of those might be hard to sell to fans. What these moves will do is open up August for a run to Fed Ex Cup glory. That sounds good, but it still puts the Tour Championship up against football on Labor Day weekend. Why not try something completely new? Like what? Like play the Fed Ex events during the week on the West Coast in prime time!
Big boy golf tournaments that finish on a Wednesday during prime time television would bring viewers from all over the country that are home from work, with no football on, looking for a sports fix to get them through the football lull that occurs in the middle of the week. The sun sets at about 10 pm Eastern time this week in California. With smaller fields in the last two Fed Ex events you could easily schedule tee times that have the contenders finishing about 30 minutes prior to sun down right in the heart of prime time for half the country.
The crowds might be smaller, but the crowds in Atlanta could care less about showing up at East Lake this week anyway. We’re not concerned about ticket sales. TV ratings are all that matter. Drop Atlanta. Drop Boston (they have the Greater Hartford Open anyway). Play the first event in the New York area as you do now, week 2 in Chicago over Labor Day. Then start the events on Sunday and end them on Wednesday going forward while playing on the West Coast. No more boring East Lake. No more rating problems.
Ryder Cup Fallout?
My West Coast solution doesn’t help U.S. Ryder Cup players that could be playing 8 of 9 consecutive weeks. They’ll still be fatigued. The schedule option that includes moving the PGA Championship does help fix that problem though. That would give Ryder Cuppers almost a month off before the big (exhibition) matches. I bet you’d see the U.S. record v. Europe steadily improve over the next few years if they were fresh and rested. If you could guarantee me that result I’d junk my West Coast idea in a heartbeat.
Speaking of the Ryder Cup, did you hear that Captain Love had the boys at Hazeltine for practice during the off weekend last week? All 11 members made it, as did Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, and Bubba Watson, who are all being considered for the final Captain’s pick. Who didn’t make it? This guy.
It wasn’t as if he was not invited. He was. But Moore told Love that he was fatigued and needed to rest for the Tour Championship. He says that the Tour Championship has been his goal all season and the Ryder Cup thing was an after thought. I’m sure Love respected the decision, and apparently Love told Moore that skipping practice didn’t exclude him from being the final pick, but come on. Moore is out right? Good coaches that get to make cuts, recruit players, etc. tend to go with guys who want to be on the team. They want them to bleed the team colors. That kind of intangible is often what puts one player ahead of another contender when their so close otherwise. Moore shot himself in the foot. Even if he wins in Atlanta he shouldn’t be picked by Love. He’ll have 10 million reasons for skipping a weekend in Minnesota, but he has no business being on the team now.