PGA Tour TV Deal
Big Win For USA
Overlooked in the breathless analysis of the PGA Tour's new
four-year, $850 million television contract was the fact that,
starting in 2003, the network that will air the most Tour action
(about 200 hours) will be the same one whose current prime-time
lineup features reruns of Jag, Nash Bridges and Walker, Texas
Ranger. That's right, the USA Network is the new sheriff on Tour.
Other than the giant step backward taken by the Golf Channel,
which was shut out of Tour telecasts, USA's great leap forward
was the most significant aspect of the contract. USA signed on to
cover an average of 30 events a year, although mostly only the
first and second rounds. The Golf Channel showed early-round
action from 10 Tour events this year and added the weekend rounds
from the two tournaments held opposite majors, such as last
week's B.C. Open. The Golf Channel was left with the booby
prize--18 Buy.com tour events.
Golf Channel officials tried to put a positive spin on the
outcome, saying that the 70 to 90 hours of Tour coverage it lost
were a drop in the bucket compared with its thousand-plus hours
of live coverage of 30-plus European tour events, six Canadian
tournaments and up to 16 LPGA events. Nonetheless, imagine a
Football Channel without the NFL.
The bottom line is that the Golf Channel still can't play with
the big boys. The channel has almost 40 million households, but
that's less than half as many as USA and ESPN each have. "The
Golf Channel didn't look ready to pay the big money, and it
doesn't have a lot of distribution," says a high-ranking
executive at a major broadcast network. "When you're trying to
give your sponsors distribution and you've got only 40 million
homes, that's a tough sell. For USA, Thursday and Friday golf
brings in a viewer who might not watch USA for any other reason.
The audience that golf attracts--affluent males--is attractive."
USA's haul of 120 events over four years makes the other
networks' numbers seem puny. ABC will average 18 Tour events a
year, CBS 17, ESPN nine and NBC only five. USA's quantity of
telecasts may finally raise the cable channel's golf profile.
"USA probably wouldn't be a golf fan's first channel to go to,
but this new package will change that," says Gordon Beck, USA's
senior vice president and sports executive producer. "It makes
us a consistent destination for golf fans."
USA lacks a strong golf identity because it works in conjunction
with the over-the-air networks. If you saw Chris DiMarco's
first-round 65 at the Masters, a CBS event, you were watching
USA. Tiger Woods's second-round 67 at the Bay Hill Invitational,
an ABC tournament, was on USA. Jerry Kelly's second-round 66 at
the Players Championship, an NBC event, was on USA, which also
carries first-day coverage of the Ryder Cup.
USA piggybacks on the host broadcast network's trucks, lines,
crews and announcing talent. USA provides two announcers--Peter
Kostis and Bill Macatee, who work for CBS on the weekends--and a
studio report based in the World Golf Village in St. Augustine,
Fla. "We can work with any of the networks," Beck says.
"Frankly, if you're a good announcer, it's not important to me
what network the viewer attaches you to. If you see one of the
better announcers on USA on a weekday and on another network on
a weekend, hey, that works for me."
With 21 years together, USA's Kostis and Macatee have the oldest
18-hole-tower partnership in golf. They stand to get even more
exposure starting in 2003.
Battle at Bighorn
Will TV Event Be Fun or Phony?
Regardless of what you think of contrived sports events, you have
to admit this about the July 30 Battle at Bighorn on ABC: The
prime-time match pitting Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam against
David Duval and Karrie Webb got a major shot in the arm when
Duval won the British Open. The question remains, though: Will
this made-for-TV golf event be fun or will it be phony? Here are
the pros and cons.
Televised live from Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif.,
starting at 8 p.m. EDT, the event will finish under the lights.
That will give the whole thing a cheesy, par-3 kind of feel. On
the other hand, if you're going to be watching golf that night,
what would you rather see, the real thing or another call-in
instructional show on the Golf Channel?
The winning team will split $1.2 million (the losers will get
$500,000), and as you know, Tiger really needs the money. Still,
this foursome has won five of the six majors so far this year.
The Skins Game wishes its field had this kind of credentials.
The format will be alternate shot, with the guys teeing off on
the odd-numbered holes and the women on the even-numbered ones,
so admit it, we won't see what we really want: how far Woods and
Double D bomb their drives past the ladies'. We will get to
compare the tee shots of Woods and Duval, though, and I can't
wait to see the look on Tiger's face when Annika reads a putt for
him for the first time. (She's a member at Bighorn and has local
After the match Sorenstam and Webb will take an all-night flight
to London to play in the Women's British Open at Sunningdale Golf
Club. Do you believe Duval or Woods would prepare for a major
this way? "I'll have many more British Opens," says Webb. "This
may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." In truth she and
Sorenstam are taking one for the LPGA, which never gets this sort
of television exposure--except maybe in Korea.
Webb has never met Duval, and Sorenstam has never spoken directly
to Woods. Annika did, however, send Tiger a message via Mark
Steinberg, the agent who handles affairs for both of them. "I
told him to bring his A game," says Sorenstam. I don't think she
The only other guy likely to win a career Grand Slam during the
Tiger Woods era, as Gary Player did during Jack Nicklaus's
reign, is British Open champ David Duval. He has the game, the
drive and the guts. He should've already won at least one
Masters, has come close in the U.S. Open and will be the
favorite at next month's PGA in Atlanta, where he was a
four-time All-America at Georgia Tech.
What do these players have in common?
Each golfer made a double eagle last week. Hanna holed a
203-yard five-wood at Wykagyl's 5th hole, Maggert a six-iron
from 200 yards at Royal Lytham and St. Annes's 6th, and Owen a
240-yard three-iron at Lytham's 11th.
Why do you think Michael Campbell plans to boycott the New
Ticket prices are too high 47%
Tiger Woods's appearance fee 31%
The frenzy over Woods's first visit to New Zealand
has pushed Campbell out of the spotlight 22%
--Based on 494 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who was more responsible for making sure Ian
Woosnam had only 14 clubs, Woosnam or his caddie? Vote at
David Duval may have taken the claret jug from Woods, but he
hasn't fared as well against Tiger as others. Woods has won 28 of
his 118 Tour starts. Here are the players who have finished ahead
of him the most in the 90 events he hasn't won.
Player Topped Tiger
Davis Love III 25
Phil Mickelson 25
Vijay Singh 23
David Duval 22
Jim Furyk 19
Scott Hoch 17
Mark Calcavecchia 16
Ernie Els 16
The Tigerless Tour
These days you don't really have a tournament on the PGA Tour if
you don't have Tiger Woods
In his five years as a pro, Tiger Woods has played in 33 of the
Tour's 49 official events. Here are the unlucky 16 that he has
never entered and the chances of his gracing them with his
Touchstone Energy Tucson OpenPlayed same week as Mercedes, so has
no shot unless Tiger goes full season without winning. (Yeah,
right.) Outlook: Not likely.
Sony Open in HawaiiWoods already plays four West Coast events
(Mercedes, San Diego, Pebble Beach, L.A.), and usually adds World
Match Play Championship and a trip overseas. Outlook: Doubtful.
Bob Hope Chrysler ClassicTournament director Michael Milthorpe
ripped Woods and IMG for not returning calls and for daring to
say no to Hope. Said Milthorpe, "He can play in Thailand for the
rest of his life." Outlook: Milthorpe can put on a tournament
without Woods for the rest of his.
Shell Houston OpenStuck in the dreaded four-week Dead Zone after
Masters. Outlook: Grim.
Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic With Tiger's Buick contract?
Compaq Classic of New Orleans Prime vacation time, but everyone
loves tournament director Rick George. Outlook: Why not?
Kemper Insurance Open Not part of Tiger's normal
Nelson-Germany-Memorial run-up to U.S. Open. Outlook: Because of
appealing D.C., a definite maybe.
FedEx St. Jude Classic Woods never plays the week preceding the
U.S. Open. Free shipping isn't much of an incentive. Outlook: Not
Canon Greater Hartford Open Big crowds, bad traffic and a small
city leave Tiger nowhere to hide. Outlook: Would be something of
Reno-Tahoe OpenHeld opposite the NEC Invitational, which Woods
has won for each of the last two years. Outlook: Fuhgeddaboutit.
Air Canada Championship Boxed in by NEC, Canadian and AmEx in
out-of-the-way Vancouver. Outlook: Nope.
Tampa Bay Classic Played opposite AmEx. Tiger is on AmEx payroll.
Marconi Pennsylvania ClassicThink Woods will play three straight
weeks before Ryder Cup? Outlook: Puh-leeze!
Michelob Championship at Kingsmill Think Woods will play week
after Ryder Cup? Outlook: No, he'll have seen enough of Curtis
Strange by then.
Buick Challenge Only Buick-sponsored tournament Tiger hasn't
played. (He showed up in '96, WD'd and skipped dinner in his
honor, drawing heavy fire.) It's wedged into a bad date--after
Las Vegas and Disney, two of Woods's faves, and before Tour
Championship. Outlook: Good.
Southern Farm Burea Classic If Woods somehow finished out of top
30 and missed concurrent Tour Championship, he'd be too mortified
to play. Outlook: No, no, never, never, uh-uh.