At the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Tim Finchem has voiced what should be obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention to the Tour this year. From an LA Times article:
“We’ve gone very quickly from a point in time when we were very much a sport that had a dominant player (Woods) to all the way to the other end of the spectrum,” Finchem told reporters at East Lake Golf Club on Tuesday.
“We’re at a point of total parity. Anybody out here can win any given time. So far the fans seem to really like it, and it’ll be interesting to see what develops in that regard going forward.
“Our ratings are up this year as a result of that interest, and I think that interest triggered a lot of what was very positive in our television negotiations.”
This goes back to why I’ve always argued that Tiger has not been as good for the Tour as everyone seems to think. Sporting events are interesting only when the outcome is in doubt. In this, the NFL—not MLB or the NBA—is the model. The phrase “any given Sunday” has real significance for the attraction of the NFL. On any given Sunday any team in the league can beat any other. Contrast that with Major League Baseball or the NBA, with their clearly delineated haves and have-nots. When the Boston Red Sox show up to play the Baltimore Orioles, you can be fairly certain about the outcome.
When Tiger was at his peak, and he was leading on Sunday, I often would not bother to watch. I knew—as did everyone else—the eventual outcome (until YE Yang, that is). Even the announcers accepted the fait accompli and began looking for things to talk about other than who would win. In some instances, the only reason to watch was to see just how bad a drubbing Tiger would deliver.
That’s not true today. With Tiger out of the picture (or at least diminished), the phrase “any given Sunday” also can apply to the Tour. Fans need to watch, because the field is wide open.
I think the television networks recognized this new competitiveness when they recently inked a long-term, favorable, agreement with the Tour. They can’t realistically expect Tiger to return to his old form, and absolutely can’t expect him to maintain it over the next ten years. Instead, I believe they’re banking on an exciting product with competitive fields. At that point, the PGA Tour will be more NFL than MLB or NBA.