If you are among the many who build their Sunday afternoon couch time around watching the final round of PGA Tour events, this Sunday is the outlier.
In a nod to the unconquerable challenge of the NFL, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines – prepare for shots of paragliders floating over the cliffs on the Pacific coast north of San Diego – will conclude on Saturday.
There are two reasons for this: The NFC and AFC championship games, both scheduled for Sunday.
The tour and the tournament tried it last year, and it worked well enough they’re doing it again this year, freeing everyone up to focus on the football, should they so desire.
The Saturday finish last year drew 2.6 million viewers, fewer than a Sunday finish the previous year but more than the Saturday round a year earlier.
It wasn’t a ratings bonanza but it wasn’t a bad move and raises the question of whether the tour should consider some other alternate scheduling plans this time of year.
What if, for example, the American Express in Palm Springs were to finish on Saturday or, even more daring, on a Friday evening?
The PGA Tour gets it right with the WM Phoenix Open on Super Bowl weekend, but please try to finish earlier on Sunday. Last year, Scottie Scheffler’s playoff win took place during the first quarter of the football game.
The NFL playoffs owned Saturday and Sunday this past weekend because that’s what they do and, to be fair, it’s a seriously compelling product. If the Amex had ended a day or two earlier, maybe it has a bigger share of the news cycle, though it would miss the prime-time window on the East Coast because it’s still getting dark early in the desert this time of year.
Would it impact the fans in Palm Springs? Based on all of the million-dollar properties around the various golf courses, the fans would have plenty of flexibility in their golf-watching schedules.
The Korn Ferry Tour finishes its first two events in the Bahamas on Wednesday, which still doesn’t drive great ratings, but it’s an acknowledgement that switching things up can be a good idea.
To offer a bit of perspective on television ratings, according to the Nielsen ratings, the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions – in prime time in half the country and with Jon Rahm overtaking a faltering Collin Morikawa – drew approximately 950,000 viewers on the final week of the NFL regular season.
The Dallas-Tampa Bay NFL playoff game last Monday night, which sounded better than it actually was, drew more than 30 million viewers, the most-watched game in ESPN history (and ABC, outside of Super Bowls).
There is a familiar cadence to professional tournament golf, and it works.
This week is that once in a while, when deviating from the script is a good idea.
Ron Green Jr.