Does the PGA have a brand problem? Do they care?
OK I’ll admit: I didn’t pay much attention to the U.S. Open over this past weekend. I like golf, I golf here and there — when I can block out 5 hours of my day. I’m a bad golfer, inconsistent and all over the place. I have friends and family who follow golf so I have been hearing a lot about this guy Rory McIlroy and his record setting performance at the U.S. Open. A tournament he eventually went on to win.
Wait, who’s Rory McIlroy?
Something about sports that’s generally universal is this: People love superstars. They want to see the greatest players play great. The story behind the guy who takes his team to the big game and helps him get over the top is as old as sports itself. But in golf, there is no team. There are only singular personalities left to their own devices — and overcome what may be the toughest hurdle in all of sports — to play at a consistently high level for four straight days of a golf tournament and beat what may be your biggest opponent: your own head.
The NBA, MLB, NFL, and even NASCAR have built their brands around personalities. Those players have intense fan bases, along with the teams they play for. It was all very cool when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, et al were playing great. They were a rarity; they had the ability to consistently perform at a high level and win or at least contend over a longer period of time.
When I looked at the leaderboard of the US Open, i recognized a couple of names, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, who was a younger, exciting player just a few years ago. But generally, the PGA has a list of “who’s that’s?” all over their leader boards. And while the golf is still very good, as a golf watcher, I have no real affiliation or reason to root for anybody. Somebody new pops up every week. Where’s the guy that is going to transcend the sport? While people are quick to rush Rory McIlroy to being the heir to the throne of Tiger Woods, he has only won one major championship and it remains to be seen if he will continue to win like Tiger did. I wish him well.
It would still be interesting to know what the compelling reason would be for me to continue to watch PGA events. Are they banking that people love the sport enough that it will transcend who is playing? Are they strategizing ways to expose these unknown players to a wider audience, mirroring the way Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus became household names? Or does any of this matter and is golf just happy to go back to being a niche sport?