Posted April 29, 2014

The Coming Tiger Crash: Woods’ Absence Spells Trouble For Golf Industry

Blog, News
Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods waits to putt at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. (Credit: Getty Images)

How much is that Tiger in the window, the one with the bristly disposition and the balky back?

Let’s call it $15 billion. According to one estimate, that’s the price we might ultimately pay if Woods remains removed from competitive golf.

You knew the signs weren’t great earlier this month, when tickets prices for the Masters fell after the Injured One announced that he’d miss the event for the first time in his professional career. Single-day badges, which had sold the day before for $1,165, plunged to $940, a drop of nearly 20 percent.

Small potatoes, right? But then came the tournament itself, which drew a paltry 7.8 TV rating, the lowest since Phil Mickelson’s 2004 win on Easter Sunday.

Sure, there were a number of contributing factors: Phil missing the cut; a lack of back-nine drama; balmy weather across an Eastern seaboard that was coming off a brutal stretch of winter.

Still, no one doubted the strongest force at play. Even in absentia, Tiger was the elephant in our living rooms. The Masters, of course, is a different sort of beast, with just three sponsors and only four minutes of commercials every hour. One year of skimpy ratings does little, if any, financial damage to the broadcast network (CBS) or Augusta National itself.

“Those advertising deals were done well before the tournament,” says Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports and founder of Pilson Communications, a consulting firm specializing in sports television, media and marketing.

What’s more, Pilson points out, sponsors see the Masters as “a prestige buy, not a ratings buy.” They’re paying for the association with tournament golf’s most prestigious brand. In that regard, Pilson says, Tiger’s no-show “doesn’t really make any difference at all.”

But the year’s first major has come and gone, and the World No. 1 remains a spectator. Word is he’s bound to miss the U.S. Open as well.

What if he lingers on the sidelines?

In the short-term, TV advertising rates for Tour events aren’t likely to change, since most of those deals are locked up in multi-year agreements. But over time, dwindling ratings have a domino effect, influencing more than advertising revenues. Spending tumbles across the industry. Tickets, merchandise, equipment, tee times, golf-related travel — no sector stands entirely immune.

According to Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research for Horizon Media, a New York-based media services company, the 25-30 percent ratings drop we’re accustomed to seeing at Tiger-free events threatens to translate into similar percentage losses across the board.

Adgate and other analysts say it’s impossible to a put a precise price tag on Tiger’s absence. But if we do the math and arrive at a ballpark number in a golf industry valued at around $68.8 billion, it pencils out at roughly $15 billion. Gulp!

Not that we’re sounding the drumbeat of doom. Golf has suffered downturns before, just as the Tour has survived the loss of its iconic figures: Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Norman. Tiger, of course, outweighs them all in his global impact.

But Rick Horrow, CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures and visiting expert on sports law and business at Harvard Law School, says the prospect of a golf world without him gives us cause to pay more attention. If a Tiger Crash is coming, maybe we should see it as a market correction.

“Life without Tiger can be effectively good for the industry,” Horrow says. “It gets promoters, sponsors and TV executives thinking more creatively, working to cultivate a greater understanding and appreciation for the inherent excitement, tradition and allure of golf.”

That’s a nice thought, but in the meantime: Tiger, get well soon.

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157 comments
dl0007
dl0007

I USED to love to watch the PGA Tour and NEVER miss a minute of The Masters and U.S. Open! This year, if I watched an hour of The Masters, I'd be stretching it a little. Today's players are boring, mechanical, personality-less (just invented a new word!), arrogant, entitled, cloned, etc., etc.! I attended tournaments at Firestone C.C. in Akron at least one day for over 30 consecutive years! Today, I wouldn't go to a tournament if they let me sit with Jim Nance on the 18th green! 

JYoffie
JYoffie

Parity is boring. No matter how high the quality of play, a level playing field where there is a different winner every week is boring to all but the hardcore fan. The casual fan did not spend Saturday night talking about Jordan Spieth (who?) and making plans where to catch the back nine on Sunday.

tommyrogo
tommyrogo

Still the most ridiculous estimate I ever heard of.  Let's value the golf industry as a whole and multiply by approximately 20% and call it the Tiger crash.  Absolutely stupid!

JensRiis
JensRiis

A sad state of affairs. The real question is, why did golf sell it's soul to Tiger?

BubbaJoBubba1
BubbaJoBubba1

A story like this should drive the haters crazy...............let the games begin.............

Jason Eades
Jason Eades

gives him more time with his kids maybe! they deserve it.

plietz
plietz

i have 3 golfers in tiger woods 2014 plietz1956 already clear with the game  I change my password  and had to stared the game over help

Susan M Amerise
Susan M Amerise

I miss him though there are soo many new ones I like too!!!!

Bill Weyman
Bill Weyman

You guys dont understand....Tiger carries over 60% of the fanbase, that is a huge number. I personally dont watch golf if he isnt playing mostly because there is noby else who interests me, the replay his wins to get ratings, plain and simple this day and age in golf, you have Tiger Woods and then everybody else. I saw on an yahoo article that the day bubba watson won the masters the search engines had more hits on articles about tigers back surgery than bubba winning the masters, that should tell you something.

Chris Ingram
Chris Ingram

Money well spent. But the stock price of Waffle House should go through the roof. I bet he's at one right now scouting out his next conquest.

Rosemarie Green
Rosemarie Green

what did they do before he came on the scene, too many other good players around to depend on one player

DeWayne Jordan
DeWayne Jordan

But we would have true fans. Tiger has to much baggage, he should go retire on an island. The last of the gentleman sports, corrupted by tiger.

Brian Bobbie
Brian Bobbie

I agree greats have come and gone, risen and fallen.... there WILL be someone to replace him... then they too will fall.....Golf has been around a hell of alot long then Mr. Woods.......

Tony Sheppard
Tony Sheppard

Tiger does help the game...no denying that but the game is bigger than any one individual. Golf & the PGA Tour will survive.

Tom Derouin
Tom Derouin

Granted Tiger is an attraction but he did not invent the wheel Jordan Speith and Young guns are going to replca

Mike Wiggill
Mike Wiggill

Any way you guys can find to write about TW ...... and you like creatiing your own "self-fulfilling prophesies". There are a LOT of TW "fans" who are NOT "golf fans" per se. Will we really miss them? Yes, TV ratings may, but the game itself, from anything other than a profit point of view? Golf existed LONG before TW was even in liquid form, and will be around a LONG time after he has turned to dust.

Melvin Madiou
Melvin Madiou

As Arnold said, "he'll be back," but Tiger will never be the phenomenon he once was......He may win one or two more majors before he's done.

NigelJames
NigelJames

At the end of the day no matter how much money Tiger brings into the game that money has to originate from somewhere, the consumer! For example, Nike may give Tiger his sponsorship cheque but it's their customers who pay for it. So maybe the demise of Tiger could benefit the average golfer not harm them!

Ray Coutcher
Ray Coutcher

The Golf channel during the week has been showing final rounds of Tournaments that Tiger won in the past. They know there's a lot of Tiger fans who aren't seeing enough of Tiger this year will watch it and they are doing it to hold their TV ratings

Ray Coutcher
Ray Coutcher

Golf attendance is down almost 30% because he's not playing. that's a lot of revenue for the PGA and TV even though n TV it doesn't look it but over the 4 days it adds up and thy feel it.

Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly

ESPN will implode!!!! Someone always comes along to take up the slack.

Ray Belahi
Ray Belahi

Check your stats! Jack did NOT accomplish what Tiger did at the same age period!

Glynn Kelly
Glynn Kelly

The game is bigger than ANY one player....

Dan Wolz
Dan Wolz

So, if Tiger leaves..... Golf will become more expensive? Ooooo, that's a conundrum.

Mike Rubino
Mike Rubino

There was never going to be another Jones , Nelson , Hogan , Snead , Palmer , Watson , etc either. Remember you can take the whole tour drop it in the ocean , and people will still be playing golf the next day .

Ken Lyons
Ken Lyons

Going to a be weird once Tiger is all done. Every golf fan should be thankful for him for how much he has helped the game. Golf is now "Cool" and has swag.

golferx
golferx

I have never played golf with a single person who bought any golf equipment because pro or Tiger endorsed it. and tiger plays less than 15 tournaments a year in the US anyway.

The author can make up any number he wants because he doesn't have a clue.

Tony Korologos
Tony Korologos

How on earth has golf survived some 1500 years before Tiger and without TV ratings?

Mike Recch
Mike Recch

JACK NICKLAUS!! Check your stats!!!

Robert Rast
Robert Rast

The tour survived the aging of Hogan Arnie Jack and Watson I think they will survive the Tiger decline.

Ray Belahi
Ray Belahi

Tiger IS the Golf Industry! His golf feat is unmatched in the history of the game at such a young age! He has so much to offer yet.

Bill Weyman
Bill Weyman

There will never be another Tiger, the guys on tour now only do well at certain courses that fit their strengths, there are a few good players on tour, but none that I see that will be great. All the tiger haters just have to face it, without him there is mega money to be lost. Tiger and Phil carried the tour the last decade or so, and nobody on tour right now compares to those two.

James Brian
James Brian

Now the big question is.. "who's gonna be the next tiger?"

Bob Robinson
Bob Robinson

this is BS...golf will survive this and other "tragedies" that rear their ugly heads

Craig Lock
Craig Lock

Let's cancel the remainder of the season.

Matt Bottegal
Matt Bottegal

Is it Tiger's absence that is the problem or that he killed his hero status for many people? He trashed his own image with the various integrity scandals.

Justin Dent
Justin Dent

Totally agree, he is the reason golf is where it is today, but he's not the only interesting player to watch, and most true golf fans will still watch golf, even if Tiger isn't playing.

klondiko
klondiko

They better find someone with a personality that can obliterate the competition for years like Tiger. Speith isn't it. Neither was Rory. Nobody on tour can win consistently.

golferx
golferx

LOL ,   you think tigger is the golf industry? do you even play the game?

klondiko
klondiko

I don't especially with drones like Jim Nantz doing the broadcasting. CBS needs to wise up.

dl0007
dl0007

@tommyrogo  Wrong place. Above response was meant to be below JensRiis comment. Sorry!

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