As I sat on my couch last weekend, glued to the NBA playoffs, my Bleacher Report app sent me an update alerting me that Matt Kuchar had won the RBC Heritage Open. I stared at the message and all along one thought consumed my mind, “Oh yeah, there was a tournament this weekend!”
Just one week after the Masters (which suffered from very low ratings, but that’s another article), the PGA Tour was basically forgotten. I started asking myself, what can the PGA Tour do to attract attention to non-major tournaments? How can the PGA Tour keep an audience’s attention for the entirety of the season? How are the Spurs still so good? Well, the last question is unrelated but seriously, HOW ARE THE SPURS STILL SO GOOD?!
After quite a bit of pondering, I came up with a few solutions to those questions (except the Spurs one) that I think could potentially improve the PGA Tour by capturing the attention of the American public unlike ever before.
1) Play a Match Play Championship at the end of the year
Just think, a 64-man, single elimination match play tournament to determine the Champion Golfer of the Year. The participants and seeding would be determined by the FedEx Cup standings (rather than the World Rankings does for the WGC – Accenture Match Play) in order to reward great play over the course of the PGA Tour season.
Okay, now just try and convince me that this would not be an improvement over the FedEx Cup playoffs and more people would not watch this exciting match play tournament. Actually, don’t even try because you simply cannot convince me – this is better. Who wouldn’t want to fill out a bracket a la March Madness? And then who wouldn’t want to watch their bracket get completely busted when a Cinderella like Victor Dubuisson makes a run all the way to the finals? Most importantly, who wouldn’t want the champ to have to play through a bracket filled with the best players from that year? I’m getting excited just thinking about it!
Now the biggest setback would be the current FedEx Cup and the established playoff system. So, why not just keep the same layout and for the 3 to 4 weeks leading up to my proposed match play championship cut the playoff field down to the 64-man field for the match play finale? They can even call it the FedEx Match Play Championship, I don’t care.
Seriously PGA Tour, give me one good reason why this match play championship would not be a fantastic end to the season. I’m waiting…
2) An All-Star Tournament
Pop quiz: What is the only major sport in America that does not have an All-Star game?
I think the answer might be obvious, but in case you weren’t sure, it is golf. So what if one week in the middle of the summer, there was an All-Star tournament? The fans would vote for the players (let’s just say 16) and the top 2 vote getters become captains. Then, these 2 captains get to choose their teams from the 14 remaining all-stars. Once the teams are set, they battle in a Ryder Cup style tournament.
Could you imagine how much fun this would be? There is no threat of injury or exhaustion, so the players would still compete, unlike in some other major sports (I’m looking at you, NFL Pro Bowl), and it would still be incredibly fun to watch. Best ball, alternate shot, and head-to-head matchups of the most entertaining (All-Star selections are a popularity contest by the way) golfers, all in pursuit of the ultimate bragging rights: the All-Star Cup…or some other gimmicky prize.
After each day of competition, there could also be a different skills challenge. Long drive, breaking glass like in the Big Break, shots from the trees, anything could fall under these competitions. Picture Bubba and Dustin Johnson squaring off in the Long Drive Finals and tell me you wouldn’t be intrigued. How about Bubba and whoever else makes it in the Closest to the Pin from the Middle of the Trees Final? The exciting possibilities are just endless.
Take the Ryder Cup style All-Star tournament, pair it with the skills challenges, and mix in a few celebrities, and you have got yourself one watchable weekend of golf.
This is definitely the easiest fix of all. Why do I not see cool golf commercials when I am watching ESPN? Or for that matter, any station besides Golf Channel? The PGA Tour should advertise and advertise hard. Not the typical boring ads for this weekend’s tournament either. I want the type of ads that will go viral in days. There are personalities on Tour that people will be drawn to, and the PGA Tour should capitalize on them. Bubba Watson is undeniably likeable, Rickie Fowler is young and cool, Dustin Johnson is crazy athletic, Jason Dufner is funny, and Tiger Woods is still Tiger Woods. The ad campaigns need to be focused on these attributes that will attract people to watch the tournaments.
Commercials may seem like they would have an inconsequential effect on TV ratings, but I would be willing to bet that if kids saw an ad that had Bubba in overalls watching Dustin Johnson dunk over Jason Dufner in his famous “Dufnering” pose (see below), more eyes would be on the tournament that weekend. It’s just a hunch.
So there you have it. Three ideas straight from the brain of Trent Carlson that Trent Carlson believes would help save the PGA Tour from its low ratings and low excitement in every week of the year besides the 4 major weeks. In an ideal world, these changes would be made today and by tomorrow that ad I came up with would be running during every commercial break. However, I know that change does not happen that fast. So PGA Tour, I simply ask that you consider these, and when you inevitably decide that they are brilliant, implement them in a little bit more of a timely fashion than the no belly putter rule. Thanks.
***Trent Carlson is a student at the University of Alabama.