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SBJ/Jan. 17-23, 2011/In-Depth
Issues to watch in golf in 2011
Published January 17, 2011, Page 18
Golf’s popularity continues to be challenged by sagging numbers of recreational rounds played. The most recent numbers from the PGA of America indicate that rounds played in 2010 were down about 2.2 percent from 2009. Rounds played at private and public courses slipped, while resort courses showed modest growth. Driving those numbers back up is a challenge.
The LPGA is taking a big gamble by having its players compete in a tournament for free this season. At the first domestic event in Phoenix on March 18-20, the players will donate their prize money to the LPGA Foundation, which supports a variety of charitable causes. It will be interesting to see if the tour’s stakeholders support the uniquely altruistic idea or if it’s brushed aside as a cheesy publicity move.
Lost in all of the talk about the PGA Tour’s next TV deal is that the tour’s online rights are up as well. Turner has held those rights to PGATour.com as part of a current six-year deal, but there’s significant speculation that the tour might take those rights in-house and run the whole operation themselves.
The PGA Tour is emphasizing its hot group of 20-somethings in its promotions. In “New Breed vs. The Establishment,” the tour positions Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim as the young lions threatening Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other veterans. Now those rising stars have to back it up on the course.
The USGA will replace executive director David Fay this year. Fay, who spent the last 21 years as executive director and 32 years at the USGA total, announced his retirement the day before Christmas. Under his leadership, the ultra-conservative body sold its first sponsorships and also moved the U.S. Open to public courses for the first time.
Twelve of the world’s top 25 players come from Europe and there are fewer tournaments week to week that feature most or all of the game’s best. U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell of Ireland and British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa will play on the PGA Tour, while others like England’s Lee Westwood, the world’s No. 1, PGA champ Martin Kaymer from Germany and up-and-coming Irishman Rory McIlroy will play on the European Tour. They’ll come together for a handful of events, like the majors and WGC tournaments, but the fragmentation is leading to more talk about the need for a truly global tour.
Tiger Woods and TV go hand in hand. No singular figure in sports has the impact on ratings that Woods has in golf, and his absence from the scene in 2010 as a dominant figure contributed greatly to more than 30 percent in viewership losses. Anyone who has a financial stake in the game is pulling for Tiger to win this spring before TV negotiations begin.