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Thought for the Day
When you are arguing with a fool, make sure he isn’t doing the same thing

Tiger unleashed but unwatched
As we approach the fag end of the 2018 season, with all four majors now behind us, it becomes obvious that the only real story of the year has been Tiger Wood’s resurgence as a contender. This despite the fact that Brooks Koepka has won three of the last six majors; that Rory McIlroy’s four-year wait to land one of the big four will now extend to five years, and that the two Ryder Cup teams taking shape look to be among the strongest ever assembled on either side of the Atlantic.

Love him or hate him, you can’t keep Tiger out of the headlines – but for those of us interested in golf, another story may have even greater long-term significance and that is, whether we will continue to be able to watch our sport on television, whether through a mainstream service like the BBC, or subscription channel like Sky or BT Sport.

The situation with TV companies is complicated. In 2017 Sky baulked at the money being asked for TV rights of the US PGA Championship, and the PGA of America was said to be disappointed that its multi-year deal with the broadcaster, coming to an end, had been seen by relatively few viewers. The BBC stepped in, signing up for what was heralded to also be a multi-year deal but its coverage was criticised by some. Because the golf event coincided with the World Athletics Championship in London, also screened by the BBC, the PGA Championship was on the red button until the athletics finished at 10.30pm. In addition, because it had relatively little notice that it would be broadcasting the event, the Beeb’s coverage was put together in a hurry, and at times looked like it.

This year both the BBC and Sky refused, or were unable, to cough up the £7.5 million asking price and the rights to what has always been perceived as the lesser of the four majors were seized by Eleven Sports, a content platform accessible on the internet. They are aware that younger people spend so much time on social media, that access to websites and platforms such as Facebook is as natural to them as breathing, and that this is becoming their preferred way of keeping up to date.

The television in the corner of the lounge is no longer the way in which many people, including sports fans, choose to keep track of what’s happening and where the US PGA has gone, others may follow. This, for those of us who still like watching TV if we can’t get to the actual event, is the doomsday scenario and we can only hope that, with a huge surge of TV viewers in the USA for the season’s last major, television companies here will have a re-think on whether they can afford to broadcast (or not broadcast) the PGA Championship again. And incidentally, don’t you think that both Sky and the BBC are now kicking themselves for not showing what has turned out to be the best major of the year?

Which brings us back to Tiger because it is he, and he alone who is responsible for the huge spike in viewing figures seen in the States – this year’s championship saw the most people tune in since Tiger was last involved at the death – when he was taken to the wire and eventually beaten by YE Yang in 2009. The man is box office and always has been. According to IBC365, an online community: ‘providing business knowledge for the global media, entertainment & technology industry,’ the general rule of thumb is that if Tiger is perceived to be in contention, viewing figures double.

If that was the case previously, Tiger’s recovery from a messy and distressing divorce, and numerous injuries and surgery, is one of the greatest ever comebacks in golf, second only to the return to major winning ways of Ben Hogan, after the crash that almost killed him and which left him with permanent and serious after-effects. If proof was needed you need only to have seen the reaction of fans as they followed Tiger shooting 64 on the last day at Bellerive, his lowest final round of any major.

They went apeshit, as did Tiger himself at some points. To get a true measure of his impact, we need to remember that Brooks Koepka shot 66 to land in his third major in 14 months, with yet another performance that sets him among the very best of the world’s elite, and yet his victory last week is completely over-shadowed by a man in his 40s who last won a major a decade ago.

That is box office. That is Tiger Woods. Let’s just hope that whatever the rest of his career entails, we’ll be able to watch it.

Quote of the Week
Golf is the only game I know of that actually becomes harder the longer you play it
Bobby Jones

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