Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about sporting events continuing without fans.
When you think about it, the game of golf and its professional iteration of it is no different than other professional sports. In an article from 2019, I pointed out the contrasting similarities. It doesn’t matter which sports league it is, professional golf really is no different than say the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NASCAR to name a few. How do I figure?
Well in what is a relatively easy question to answer, all of the sports have things in common. First of all, there’s free agency. Golf? How? Simple, when equipment contracts expire, often we’ll see a play jump ship to play a different brand. Look no further than Justin Rose who departed TaylorMade Golf in favour of Honma Golf. Granted, Rose did return back to a golf bag predominantly filled with TaylorMade Golf products, save for a COBRA Golf KING SPEEDZONE 5-wood when we last checked in March. Then there’s Sergio Garcia who left TaylorMade Golf for Callaway Golf just to… actually, we’ll leave that one alone. I wouldn’t touch that one with my dog’s 6-foot social distancing stick. Often money and more lucrative equipment deals are the “inspiration” for leaving one brand and joining another. It isn’t necessarily about better equipment to be had. There’s just so much parity in the golf equipment industry.
Merchandise. Yes, there’s that as well. You could be walking around your golf courses Pro Shop or local golf retailer and the “merch” is everywhere. Polos that say Adidas Golf or Nike Golf on them. At events, there’s always “pop-up” shops with logoed products of the event that you’re attending. Ultimately, the merchandise goes back to the golf manufacturer and in a roundabout way, that also partially pays for a player’s logo deal or apparel contract. Do you realize how much the fans of other professional sports ultimately pay owners and players by purchasing and wearing their jerseys or baseball caps? It’s a massive revenue generator.
All of the sports including professional golf also make a ton of money from ungodly television contracts. In 2019, every NFL team received $255M from the league’s television contracts. Recently, the PGA TOUR renewed its contract with CBS and NBC for an astronomical $700M per annum over the next nine years. That’s big money rolling into Ponte Vedra, FL. Without you, the fans, watching the events on your television that simply isn’t possible.
Basically, without fans none of this is possible. In saying “this” I am referring to professional sports even existing. Which ultimately gets me to my main point.
The Ryder Cup. The bi-annual team event that pits the best professional golfers from the United States vs Europe. Being Canadian, I have no vested interest in who wins or loses because Canadian golfers are excluded. I’m just a fan of good golf. There’s been a lot of scuttlebutt that in the wake of the global pandemic facing us, the Ryder Cup will be played with no fans in attendance. Honestly, in my opinion, that makes this event borderline “pointless”. While the golfers themselves have something to play for, with no fans in attendance the event itself would be so sterile. The fans make the Ryder Cup what it is. They’re the ones who create the atmosphere. There’s talk that the NBA and NHL has vetted cities like Toronto to host the playoffs without fans. At that point, I wouldn’t even watch it on television. No atmosphere and no emotion. It’d basically be like watching a scrimmage where I’m the only person in attendance in the arena. The teams feed off of the energy of those in the galleries or stands.
Now what I do have is a crazy suggestion for the golf powers that be. Postpone the 2020 Ryder Cup until 2021 and keep the venue the same (Whistling Straits). What about the Presidents Cup you ask, which finally yielded an entertaining event in 2019? Play that in 2021 as well. Often, I’ve said that the U.S. has so much depth that they could field two teams. Put my theory to the test. Just look at all of the “Stars and Stripes” on the OWGR. It’d be a great chance for the USGA to see what they have for the future by immersing players like Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Max Homa, and others on the team. Not to mention guys like Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, and say Phil Mickelson as a playing captain.
The television ratings for both would be amazing. Hello, television and TOUR executives. Just think of the dollar signs while you sit there in your “ivory towers”. Without the fans at live events, what’s the point?
Until The Next Tee!!