Now that Rory McIlroy is the PGA Tour’s Speaker of the House, his press briefings are unique. More inquiries regarding the rules and procedures of the Tour are made of him than about the state of his swing or his attitude toward his wedge technique.
McIlroy is frequently questioned about the Tour, the golf industry as a whole, and possible future scenarios. For McIlroy this week, it meant giving his opinion on the numerous scheduling adjustments made to the PGA Tour.
With a significant infusion of funds, the Tour has officially returned to a January through August regular season schedule, including 13 “elevated” tournaments in addition to major championships. However, there will be some uncertainty once the season concludes in August. The top 50 players in the FedEx Cup will be eligible for a series of fall events with no cut and enormous payouts, most likely to be staged abroad, according to clarification from the Tour. The remainder of the Tour will go on to a revamped autumn schedule of competitions, which commissioner Jay Monahan described as a “compelling, consequential final stretch” where players may elevate their standing going into the next season.
A lot of stuff is still quite hazy. What should the fall season actually look like, Rory, while the Tour works everything out?
“Football”, he responded.
“I mean, it’s football season, right?”
Football season is upon us. It is well known to the PGA Tour. Pro golf has probably changed its schedule the most in order to follow the times of NFL games. In recent years, the Tour has moved the FedEx Cup Playoffs ahead in order to avoid having its season-ending tournament take place while sports fans are engrossed to RedZone. In order to avoid clashing with the NFL Championship weekend, the Farmers Insurance Open, one of the more notable events on the PGA Tour’s early-season schedule, has played its previous two editions from Wednesday through Saturday. McIlroy is advising against trying to compete when football is being played. He is correct, but not only that.
He said, “I think we need to get to a point where it’s not oversaturated. “I would love us to come back in January and people will have missed watching competitive golf. I don’t think that happens right now because there’s 47 events a year.”
Nobody could have anticipated what McIlroy is fighting for a number of years ago. The PGA Tour couldn’t get enough tournaments on television when Tiger Woods first appeared in the 1990s. But a contemporary problem has emerged. Golf enthusiasts today struggle to identify the competitions outside of the majors that matter the most.
It’s not the simplest sports league to interact with when star players are on one week and off the next, and their schedule is never really sure until they show up for their tee time. There is also no time for golf fans to pause, renew their fandom, or prepare for the upcoming major stretch when one season transitions into the next so fast.
The Tour is constantly present, but McIlroy questions whether it should be.
Is the Houston Open more significant than the Honda Classic? They award the identical number of FedEx Cup points (500). They give out exactly the same amount ($8.4 million). In recent years, they have even pulled a comparable strength of field. However, one is staged in February, just before the Players Championship and the Masters, and the other is in October, when football has taken over people’ Sunday TV viewing habits.
“I think to get the most fan engagement that we possibly can, we have to let people miss it for a little bit,” McIlroy said. “I’m not comparing golf to football at all, but you think about the exclusivity of the NFL and they play 18 weeks a year. Then people are just so ready for football season to start again. I’m not saying that golf’s going to be that way, but you’ve got to let people miss it a little bit.”
Once the Super Bowl is passed, football fans will undoubtedly be eager for a vacation. But after a little break from games, which included the NFL draft and free agency, suddenly summer arrives, and fans are eagerly anticipating Week 1. Mid-season pauses in the Premier League of English football allow for the same kind of demand to develop. The league calendar will clear for weeks as players play with their national clubs or teams add to their squads during a transfer period after a grueling stretch of, say, five Premier League games in 21 days. The PGA Tour has a history of starting a new season two weeks after the previous one ended. Fans have no place to breathe or “miss” the product. Golf might distance itself from football season even more in the fall to make room for that.
“And I’m not saying we’re not going to play any golf in the fall,” McIlroy said, “but the fall is maybe more of an international flavor. It’s an opportunity for guys to travel the world a little bit, grow their brands in different countries, but the real competitive golf season is January to August. That’s where I see it.”
Original article posted on Golf.com