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3 Major Takeaways From Jay Monahan’s Urgent Board Meeting at Hilton Head After Masters Setback

Published 04/18/2024, 6:00 AM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

Webb Simpson’s third sponsor invite was not in vain, after all. PGA Tour Enterprises, the newly formed for-profit entity, sat for a meeting in South Carolina ahead of the RBC Heritage. The four-hour meeting, among SSG officials, PGA Tour commissioner, and Player Directors—Webb Simpson is one—had multiple things on the agenda, including the cascading TV rating of golf in general.

The Masters, after initial positive signs, plunged into a disastrous TV ratings abyss on Sunday. Only 9.58 million tuned in to watch Scottie Scheffler’s dominant 4-stroke victory at the Masters. It was the lowest since 1993, barring two COVID-impacted Masters. All that and more were part of the conversation, as in the pre-RBC Heritage meeting.

The declining PGA Tour viewership has raised eyebrows 

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The PGA Tour TV ratings are in free fall. The PLAYERS Championship final round witnessed a 15% decline, Genesis Invitational, 5%, and Arnold Palmer Invitational, a staggering 30%. Rory McIlroy sounded alarmed last week when he mentioned that the ratings are down 20% across the board. Even the PGA Tour Policy Board members are as well.

Max Homa, in the press conference yesterday, said TV ratings and improving the fan experience were part of the discussion. “I can only speak on what I know we’re trying to do. We had a really great PAC meeting yesterday. I was really inspired by the hope and plan to make it better for the fans.” The plans aren’t exactly clear, but SSG’s active involvement from the get-go makes it all the more intriguing.

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A one-hour presentation on rule changes from an SSG official 

Rex Hoggard at NBC reported that former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had a separate presentation for the players. Epstein, who was hired as a general advisor by Fenway Sports Group in February, demonstrated how certain rule changes improved Major League Baseball’s appeal to a younger audience.

Notably, Epstein was the brain behind MLB’s pitch timer, which set a 30-second timer between batters, 15 seconds between pitches when bases are empty, and 20 seconds when runners are on, per CBS. When a handful of PGA Tour pros have been at the receiving end of slow play, Epstein’s presentation about rule change becomes significant. Let’s also not forget that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s TGL will have a shot clock penalizing slow play.

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A global outlook for the PGA Tour?

There is no clear indication of the way the PGA Tour-PIF merger negotiation is going. The PIF governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, met with the player directors last month. Both sides walked away with positive news, Tiger Woods said at the Masters. On the other hand, a PAC member revealed that their vision doesn’t align perfectly. However, SSG appears to have adopted a global vision similar to LIV Golf.

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Arthur Blank, a member of the Strategic Sports Group, said the idea is to grow the PGA Tour internationally. “I think that the, the dynamics and mix of players that you see on the PGA tour today is much more diverse than we’ve ever seen before. And I think that’s attracting more ratings and more TV viewership on a worldwide basis. And I think eventually, the opportunity to host significant tournaments on a worldwide basis will be there, but we’ll see; it’s just my opinion,” the Home Depot founder told Athlon Sports. Should the PGA Tour decide to have more global events, like the World Golf Championships, the key sticking point would be how to rope in LIV golfers in those ‘elevated’ events. There is certainty in that regard.

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya

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One take at a time

Parnab Bhattacharya is a Beat Writer at EssentiallySports in the Golf Division. With four years of writing experience, he is now exploring his deep-rooted love for the gentleman’s sport. Parnab's area of expertise is his predictive and perspective pieces, where he explores all things golf, diving deep into the whys and whats behind players' and Tours' moves in the sport, and unflinchingly voicing his take.
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Edited by:

Sheldon Pereira

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