ATLANTA: US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem pondered the post-Tiger Woods era and lower television viewership on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) ahead of the season-ending Tour Championship.
Finchem said that young rising stars such as world number one Rory McIlroy would help the tour transition into the time when Woods, a 14-time major winner who missed most of this season because of injury, no longer draws large numbers of non-golf fans to the sport.
“With Tiger being injured more often the last three or four years, I’m getting the question again the other way: When Tiger’s gone, how do you manage the sport?” Finchem said.
“Well, fans like golf. They like to watch golf. They like to watch some players more than others. And I think Tiger’s got a long shelf life in terms of being a contributor because people like watching him play golf regardless of the records.
“So I don’t think you’ll see a lot changing in the short term. But when it does, when he passes by, we will have other players (such) as Rory McIlroy.”
Woods, chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, underwent back surgery in March for a pinched nerve and shut down his season after the PGA Championship. That contributed to a decrease in PGA viewers this season.
“If you look at ratings, they were off somewhat, and we attribute that somewhat to Tiger not playing,” Finchem said, also saying fewer playoffs for titles lowered those figures.
He also blamed a slow economic recovery for hurting the golf industry but said he expects a boost from the sport making its return to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“We certainly are excited about golf’s entry to the Olympics from the standpoint of growing the game, regardless of where the medals go in Rio,” he said.