If the last 12 months of professional golf were defined by the PGA Tour fending off an existential challenge from LIV Golf and its endless supply of Saudi money, the next 12 are going to be a referendum on LIV itself and the product it puts out for the world to see.
Based on last weekend’s LIV season-opening event in Mexico, the PGA Tour doesn’t have much more to worry about. Out of its start-up phase but still in its infancy, the reality of LIV Golf is that it may have already peaked.
What, the Charles Howell III vs. Peter Uihlein duel didn’t capture your imagination? You weren’t alone. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported that the overnight rating for Saturday’s LIV Golf debut on the CW Network was a .2 in 26 metered markets. That is a very bad number, suggesting LIV drew a smaller audience than CW staples like “World’s Funniest Animals.”
Can you really call it “Golf But Louder” when you’d need a stethoscope to determine if this tour even has a pulse?
On a weekend where the PGA Tour put forth arguably its weakest field of the season at the Honda Classic, and with LIV widely available on American television for the first time, this was a prime test case to see whether LIV could control the discourse and start to cash in on the star power it bought last year.
Not only did LIV seemingly fail to take any market share away from the PGA Tour, but its weekend broadcasts were also a perfect representation of why it’s not going to.
In the end, from the standpoint of the viewer, LIV is a solution in search of a problem that never really existed in the first place.
From the constant thump-thump-thump of electronic dance music in the background to the significant amount of time spent on the team aspect of LIV events to the disorienting shotgun start format, it’s just not a great watch. Howell’s march toward victory — which could have been framed as a feel-good story on its own — almost seemed secondary to some of the set pieces and gags that LIV trotted out, like airing tweets praising the league and reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith drinking a beer out of a shoe.
Oh, and as for the team results, which only add confusion to what should be a fairly straightforward competition, Bubba Watson said in a pre-round interview that the goal was “trying to sell T-shirts at the end of the day” and then couldn’t remember the tagline for his team, the Range Goats.
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