In the first competitive round since Tiger’s Masters win, few showed up to watch. Everyone saw this coming. Why didn’t the PGA of America?
Making prognostications about how a given golf tournament isn’t living up to expectations after one day is a surefire way to look stupid within 72 hours. There’s plenty of time for cinema to develop, people have jobs during the week, and drawing too many conclusions
With that all out of the way, let’s say this: early returns say this PGA Championship, in May, in New York sure seems like a big stinker!
Amidst what seems to be another coming Brooks Koepka rout, basically no one showed up to Bethpage State Park’s vast expanse in comparison to other recent majors. Geoff Shackleford shared that tickets were available for six freaking dollars. That’s consistent with all the signs we saw leading up to yesterday. Hardly anyone showed up for practice rounds. Per reporting from Darren Rovell relayed by Golf Digest, tickets on the secondary market are lower for this PGA than any major in recent history. Geoff Shackleford in particular spotted tickets going for $6 yesterday, and get-in prices only ballooning to a whole $28 for Friday’s second round. Again: These are $110 face-value tickets for a major. And again: this is all after golf has as much or more attention it’s had on it in a decade or more with Tiger coming off his return to major glory at The Masters.
Just, like, look at this.
@Frank_Cusumano @tmckernan St Louis should be proud of the way they hosted the @PGAChampionship last year. Crowds today 1st round were very thin for the Big Apple. St Louis had far larger crowds last year pic.twitter.com/90TO5irkQ3
— Jeff Barrett (@jbarrett_stl) May 16, 2019
It’s an incredibly jarring scene when contrasting this even from last year’s PGA at Bellerive in St. Louis. Handwringing about the quality of the layout aside, Bellerive felt more like an overcrowded rock concert that probably had fire marshals feeling uneasy. It was hot, sweaty, muddy, packed, unique, a scene I’ll personally never forget for the rest of my life — exactly what a major championship should be.
It would be incredibly disingenuous and unfair to call New York a bad golf town. It isn’t! Shinnecock just last year provided great crowds, as has Bethpage in previous US Open years. But when you compound the general problems of playing this event a month earlier with a market that’s completely oversaturated with big golf tournaments, you end up with $6 tickets for the first competitive major championship round after Tiger Woods won a major.
Seriously, consider what’s been in the New York metro in recent years — in addition to the Northern Trust Playoff stop that comes through town every single year. And there’s more to come!
- 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National
- 2018 US Open at Shinnecock
- 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage
- 2020 US Open at Winged Foot
- 2022 PGA at Trump Bedminster (Another topic for another time!)
- 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage
In the eight year period between 2017 and 2024, there will be 14 big time golf events in the metro — all of which are either majors, the premier team competitions, or Playoff events. It’s hard for even the most ardent NYC golf fan to attend all those — especially considering the major pain it is to get from the city to most of these sites.
Oh, and by the way — this same sort of golf fatigue? We’re about to do it in California too. Meanwhile, the Midwest, which routinely provides great gates and big crowds will get no majors for the forseeable future.Who would’ve thought that browbeating the same group of consumers with the same product that relies on tradition, aura, and novelty might not be a good plan — while an entire reliable market goes completely underserved?
But, hey, this is exactly what was at risk when the PGA chose to self-immolate itself by consolidating the schedule geographically and on the calendar, abandoning the successful niche it’s made in the Midwest, and directly going to battle with the NBA Playoffs, graduation weeks, and USGA’s grip on the NYC metro. Lay in the bed you make, etc. Let your keystone event develop the aura of a 2001 early june Rays-Rockies game in The Trop.
Maybe this all changes. Maybe the crowds come out. Maybe the PGA in May becomes a rocking success.
Or maybe we all proceed about our weekends and completely forget about an event that feels more like a repurposed 84 Lumber Classic than a major championship at the moment.
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