Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The 2010 PGA season will field 43 events counting the off events during majors and the fall season tournaments following the FedUp Cup. That's really not too bad considering the potential for a sponsor walk out. The majority of the regular tour events have purses in the mid-5 million dollar range, which should keep the Mercedes dealers happy. What remains to be seen is the interest level maintained if Woods doesn't return to the tour for a protracted stretch. I think many sponsors are locked in for 2010 and are nervously awaiting for the recluse to surface and announce his tee tomes for next year. All this adds up to an unsettled start in 2010 for the big business of golf. My prognostication record is woeful, but I'd expect to see Woods at Augusta and be knocked over by the collective sigh of relief. Remember, "Time wounds all heels." In the meantime, with the minor exception of Mickelson, don't rely on "casual" golf fans to fill advertiser's coffers during the Woods void. With typical TV ratings down 50% during a Woodsless tournament, the fact that many remotes are clicked just for the star power, not the golf, is proven. Still, the core demographic of "serious golfers" is an attractive one, just anticipate a shrinkage of the ten or so year gravy train that the pro golf behemoth has enjoyed. After all, why shouldn't they share some of the economic pain that the rest of us have enjoyed? Late in the year I'll have an eye on the Ryder Cup. On the slim chance that Woods is still meditating, the consequences will be worth following. Either way really it should be good theater.
Many have suggested that a Woodless stretch is the opportunity for the Tour to promote it's lesser known stars. Great in theory, tough in practice. I for one doubt I'll use some precious downtime to tune in a Streelman/Thompson duel at the Northern trust Open, regardless of how scintillating. the possible hope is for some recognized stars that haven't been ringing the cash register lately, (see Els, Garcia), to re-surge and prop up the Tour. that is a very large "remains to be seen". No doubt some younger guns, (see Kim, Fowler) will eventually take their place at the head of the class, I just think we're a few years away. Prove me wrong.
The fallout from the "Bivens Bounce" has turned out to be as well as could be expected under the circumstances for the ladies. This was a tour on the verge of collapse. In 2010 they will offer 24 tournaments with 11 being played on foreign soil. I reckon it's a credit to them for the salvage operation. The LPGA is a niche sport within a niche sport. The average golf viewing fan is male. The average male will usually watch men play golf. After a 5+ hour sit down watching a men's event his appetite for golf is satisfied. That's it. That's why virtually no one watches women's golf. The LPGA is wise to embrace a global strategy. That's where the game is growing. Arguing about losing the game to foreigners is like splitting hairs on a gnat's behind. Before long the only thing "American" about women's golf will be the Tour's mailing address and that's not a bad thing. Before you lose all hope however, there is a scenario that would prop up parochial interest. Michelle Wie continuing to win is the Tiger Woods effect for the ladies. Oh sure, a Creamer or Kerr victory helps, but nobody has the star power of Wie. So, you want a comeback of American women's golf? Root for Wie.
Suffice it to say that 2010 will be the LPGA's survival year. Much of their future will be predicated on 2010 results. Network and cable contracts, (Sorry about that Golf Channel), will be decided on the noise they make in 2010. Perhaps they should schedule an annual Solheim Cup. Expect a scaled down LPGA for the foreseeable future and see if Wie can inject some new found excitement and interest.
In the coming days I'll comment on 2010's effect of your personal game.