4 ideas to boost interest in PGA Tour's fall swing
Let's face it: Fall is football season and nothing is going to change that. When you add in playoff baseball, golf falls way down the pecking order in terms of what sports fans are watching.
So, if you're a PGA Tour organizer and have only die-hard golf enthusiasts paying attention as the leaves change color, why not get creative during this otherwise sleepy stretch of the schedule?
With that in mind, while ignoring the fact that 2020 is completely different with the U.S. Open already occurring in September and a Masters happening in November, here are four ideas to resurrect the PGA Tour's fall swing:
Season within a season
If the Tour can get Wyndham Hotels to dish out millions of dollars for a points race already referred to as the FedEx Cup, or AON to spend $1 million for a season-long risk-reward challenge that no one fully understands, it can definitely find a company to sponsor a mini FedEx Cup during the fall.
The idea is simple: Create a points race separate from the FedEx Cup standings, spread over three or four regular tournaments (not the limited-field events), and reward the top performer with a cash prize at the end. The majority of these fields consist of middling Tour pros or recent graduates from the Korn Ferry Tour, so the added incentive for these players would be very meaningful.
Additionally, an increase in prize money may grab the attention of some bigger names. Even if it doesn't, there will be another storyline to follow during events that generally struggle to deliver excitement.
Mix up the formats
Springboarding from the above concept, a fall-swing points race would allow the Tour to use a match-play tournament to award a winner. Perhaps after three events, the top 36 in points would advance to a single-elimination match-play tournament, in which the eventual winner would be crowned "Champion of the Fall" and collect a nice chunk of change.
If that idea seems like a stretch, at least give the fans something different during the fall rather than rolling with the same format over and over again. Another match-play tournament would be fantastic. It's the most popular format in golf, yet the Tour has only one such event all season.
A mixed event with LPGA Tour pros would be great, whether that's a team competition or simply two events being played at the same time as the European Tour did at the Victorian Open in 2019. This downtime in the schedule provides a perfect opportunity to highlight the women's game.
Again, these tournaments won't be able to draw attention away from those sports fans who are glued to their fantasy football teams, but they will generate buzz among the Tour's fan base, many of whom probably didn't watch a single shot of the Sanderson Farms Championship.
More charity matches
The same goes for the two charity events during the Tour's three-month layoff amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, the Tiger-Phil Mickelson rematch and the charity skins game featuring Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson were helped by the fact that there were no live sports being played at the time, but they continued to prove there's a growing market for one-day showdowns.
The only problem with running more of these charity exhibition matches is they could lose their luster rather quickly. But if organizers pick their spots and bring entertaining players into the mix, there's no reason why the Tour can't sprinkle a few more throughout the year.
If the PGA Tour isn't going to think outside the box when it comes to the fall schedule, the easiest way to prop up the bigger tournaments is to remove some of the other events on the calendar.
Golf fans aren't provided with an opportunity to actually miss golf. As soon as the Tour Championship is over, the next season begins the following week. Why not take a few weeks off and provide fans - and players - a break from the sport? Every other league has an offseason that heightens the anticipation for those first games.
Tournaments such as the Sanderson Farms Championship, Bermuda Championship, Mayakoba Golf Classic, and RSM Classic are much better served as alternate-field events during the spring and summer seasons. However, the Tour refuses to take weeks off and instead drowns its biggest supporters with one 72-hole stroke-play tournament after another.