Major(s) News & Notes, July 22, 2021

The Open's ratings and minuscule streaming numbers, plus the Ryder Cup qualifiers as of this week and a fresh look at Augusta National's summer renovations.

  • Next Up: The Ryder Cup (September 24-26, 2021)

  • Days To First Tee Shot: 64

  • Days To The 2022 Masters: 259 days

Today’s Quadrilateral has a few more Open follow-ups before we begin the transition to a doozy of a Ryder Cup only two months away. And it’s all capped off by more Augusta National sandcapping fly-bys and reckless architectural speculation.

As always, thanks to all for subscribing and to those who’ve pay to get all newsletters, like Monday’s winners and losers column or yesterday’s open thread to chime in on the major season. Still plenty of time to exercise your rights as a subscriber and post a comment.

Here goes for this week’s News and Notes that lands in all subscribers inboxes, starting with a win for “linear” television.

The Open Ratings: 2.5, Total Delivery Up 10%, Streaming Accounts For Tiny Portion

It was a generally solid ratings performance for NBC given the number of weekend hours they carried The Open (ten each weekend day) and with F1 competition on Sunday. Flat or slight ratings increases are a win these days, particularly with NBC throwing its marketing money toward important Olympic shoulder programming featuring the Jonas Brothers.

Paulsen at SportsMediaWatch reports a 2.5 rating for Sunday’s final round, with an average of 4.09 million viewers on NBC. The number grows to 4.17 million when factoring in streaming data not tracked by Nielsen. Paulsen says this means the 2021 Open was “flat in ratings” but up 10% in total viewership from 2019 at Portrush (2.5, 3.72M).

However, this means the non-NBC viewership number added the Nielsen rating amounted to 161,000 streamers for the final round.

And yet, Comcast is quickly winding down most of its cable channels and moving sports to streaming.

NBC’s press release on the 2021 Open did not mention streaming numbers or the centerpiece of Comcast’s future, Peacock. There was this:

Across more than 40 hours of live championship coverage on NBC and GOLF Channel, the Open Championship produced a Total Audience Delivery of 2.148 million viewers, up 8% vs. the 2019 Open coverage (1.983 million TAD) and up 27% vs. the most-recent Open Championship at Royal St George’s in 2011 (1.697 million TV-only). Sunday’s Final Round coverage on NBC delivered a TAD of 4.169 million viewers, up 10% vs. 2019 (3.784 million). 

Early Round viewership on GOLF Channel drew a TAD of 1.069 million viewers, up slightly vs. 2019 (1.065 million) to rank as the second most-watched Early Rounds on GOLF Channel in five years.

Of course, The Open’s only been on Golf Channel since 2016 so…

As for where The Open lands among 2021 golf telecasts, Paulsen noted this:

Collin Morikawa’s win delivered the seventh-largest golf audience of the year, behind the final rounds of the Masters (9.45M), PGA Championship (6.58M) and U.S. Open (5.67M), the third round of the Masters (5.18M), and the final rounds of non-majors the Players Championship (4.59M) and Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (4.19M).

Claret Jug: Morikawa Seen Exceeding The Carry-On Limit

Sure looks like more than one carry-on and a personal “item” to me!

Ryder Cup: If The Matches Were Today

The Quad is transitioning to Ryder Cup mode and the teams are starting to shape up. To recap: Team USA has six automatic qualifiers and six who must be liked by the “Task Force”. You can see the six (above) who are currently in and it sure looks like Captain Stricker should pair foursomes by ranking, don’t you agree?

The next six Americans: No. 7 Jordan Spieth, No. 8 Patrick Reed, No. 9 Harris English, No. 10 Patrick Cantlay, No. 11 Daniel Berger and No. 12 Tony Finau.

It’s hard to see all six getting the call. Cantlay and Berger seem like the most vulnerable to getting overlooked. The obvious veterans with Cup experience: Webb Simpson is currently 13th and Phil Mickelson ranks 17th.

European Captain Padraig Harrington has just three selections. His nine currently qualifying from the points lists: Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick. The World list, aka those guys who spend more time in America, currently would award spots to Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry.

That’s a pretty strong team.

The most notable change involves France’s Victor Perez. Last year he was a lock to make the team before the matches were postponed but appears doubtful for 2021. Since his semi-final appearance at the WGC Dell Match Play, Perez has only played six times, with just one made cut at the abrcdba Scottish Open. Captain Harrington has all but said Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia hold 10-stroke leads for two of the three picks.

Full rankings of both squads, and those on the outside looking in, can be found here.

Junior Ryder Cup Cancelled

A major bummer for the kids both in losing a once-in-a-lifetime match play experience but also in not getting to play Blue Mound, an incredible Seth Raynor course. The PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe’s statement on cancelling the September 20-21 playing:

We are deeply disappointed for the talented young athletes on both sides of the Atlantic who were working hard to earn a place in this wonderful match. First played in 1997, the contest between six boys and six girls from the United States and Europe, all aged 18 years and under, will return in Italy in 2023.  

The PGA of America will welcome U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team members to Whistling Straits for an exhibition match on Wednesday, September 22. The team will also be introduced at the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony and invited to watch Friday’s Ryder Cup competition.

New Augusta Views Still Suggest Big Changes At 11, 15

Eureka Earth has probably made Augusta National look into buying the airspace above their course. The documentation of this summer’s sandcapping and course modification work has been invaluable to see what’s under the hood and undoubtedly less-than-charming to the club.

In the latest shot, the installation of sand atop the clay base can be seen in the upper left, while it’s the lower portion I’ll analyze a bit more below:

The lower left shows the 11th fairway with decidedly fewer pines than the Hootie Johnson-Tom Fazio era grove. There are still trees down the right but appear thinned and scattered irregularly. This is lovely if you subscribe to Humphry Repton’s landscape architecture perspective, but still narrows the fairway from its original width. So if previous photos suggest the 11th is getting longer, I’m not sure why the narrowness is needed. But I also labor under that whole Jones/Mackenzie philosophy thing.

A closer look at 11:

Over at the 15th tee/10th green intersection you can see some sizeable new tree plantings behind the 15th tee which now makes me question whether the par-5 has been extended much, if at all. But something went on there given the earthwork and tree removal seen in previous Eureka Earth images:

We’ll know in 260 days when the Masters first round kicks off!


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