Major(s) News & Notes, June 23, 2022
Women's PGA at Congressional, news from The Open, Augusta National construction images, U.S. Open ratings and Reads.
Days to the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA first tee shot: 0
Days to the 2022 Open Championship first tee shot: 21
Days to the 2022 AIG Women’s Open first tee shot: 42
This is largely a LIV-free edition but if you want to read the PGA Tour’s counter to the Saudis, I have a blog post analyzing Jay Monahan’s statement. Spoiler alert: the strategic alliance does not feel very allied.
Also, Rory used a big word that will make his next pairing with Brooks great fun.
This week’s edition of News & Notes begins with some preview links on the KPMG Women’s PGA. Then news from The Open, followed by the latest recon images above Augusta National and a mixed bag of U.S. Open ratings news. Plus, a few good listens and reads. Onward to the 150th!
After a massive redesign, the tired snoozefest we called Congressional is back with Andrew Green’s interpretation of the long forgotten Devereux Emmet. The Blue Course is fresh off a renovation so it may look a little new still. But early player comments seem positive and the course is maintained by Pete Wendt, one of the best in the business. Gone are the days of wondering if Congressional’s greens will survive the week.
This week’s third women’s major kicks off a steady run of big events:
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (2022, ’27)
PGA Championship (2031)
KitchenAid Senior PGA (2025, ’33)
Junior PGA Championship (Girls and Boys, 2024)
PGA Professional Championship (2029)
Ryder Cup (2036)
KPMG and the PGA of America have doubled the purse to $9 million, double the $4.5 million total awarded last year and represents a 300% increase since 2014 when it was $2.25 million.
This winner’s share has doubled to $1.35 million.
The 150th Open To Remain Open
In response to questions about LIV defectors exempt into The Open, the R&A’s Martin Slumbers made clear they remain welcome to the 150th. From a statement released Wednesday:
“The Open is golf’s original championship and since it was first played in 1860, openness has been fundamental to its ethos and unique appeal.
“Players who are exempt or have earned a place through qualifying for The 150th Open in accordance with the entry terms and conditions will be able to compete in the Championship at St Andrews. We are focused on staging a world class championship in July and celebrating this truly historic occasion for golf. We will invest the proceeds of The Open, as we always do, for the benefit of golf which reflects our purpose to ensure that the sport is thriving 50 years from now.”
In other Open news…
The number of spots available at Final Qualifying has been increased from a minimum of 12 to 16. Four will be available at each of the events being held at Fairmont St Andrews, Hollinwell, Prince’s and St Annes Old Links on Tuesday, June 28th. The fields are now set after the first stage of qualifying. The draws for each venue can be viewed via TheOpen.com
Open Series in Korea: two places are available in the Kolon Korea Open at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.
The Road The Open Is Back. The docuseries follows players hoping to qualify. Three players are currently featured: Scott Herald, George Bryan (of Bryan Brothers fame) and top amateur Keita Nakajima. The teaser:
Eureka Earth: Another Busy Summer In Augusta
What looks like could be a 13th tee finally going in on land purchased from Augusta Country Club could also be just a square hole!
The latest Eureka Earth images show an obvious excavation in the shape of a tee about where one would expect should the Lords ever decided to lengthen the hole. It’s also cut into slope, perhaps to help minimize what will be a sparse backdrop until trees mature. But there are also mysterious elements to the work.
Trees in front of the tee have not been cleared. Usually before placing a tee you’d like to see the opened view. You know, to make sure it’s lined up correctly.
They could be building the tee, grassing it and letting the area mature before the painful opening cut reveals way more of Augusta Country Club from ANGC than the Lords would like. It’d be a wild way to do this but stranger things have happened.
A pine planted in recent years has been cut down. The stump remains next to the square hole. The tree was an obvious shade creator for a potential tee box and probably should never have been planted. Sorry Mr. Pine, but you did nothing wrong.
By all appearances the 13th hole is also getting a major line of some kind cut through it:
The Par-3 course redesign is significant, with new buildings causing what appears to be a re-routing of the first two holes. Presumably the new structures are cabins. From Eureka Earth:
U.S. Open Ratings: Down A Tick On NBC, Early Round Coverage Loses Big To The PGA
According to Showbuzzdaily.com, the 2022 U.S. Open final round drew a 2.92 overnight, down a tick from last year’s 3.18 at Torrey Pines (where you may recall NBC prioritized the Olympic trials and did not take advantage of the locale with an east coast prime time finish).
The audience peaked at 9.2 million viewers from 6:30-6:45 p.m. ET.
Saturday’s better-than-most third round—commercial breaks notwithstanding— was up slightly (2.11 vs. 2.09) over 2021’s third round (played earlier than it should have been.
The network showed decreases for the two-hour weekday airings on NBC. (Down around 400k and 500k average viewers in 2022’s earlier window.)
Paulsen at Sportsmediawatch.com says the 2.92 rating makes Sunday’s telecast “the fourth-largest golf audience of the year behind the third and final rounds of the Masters and narrowly behind the final round of the PGA Championship (5.273M to 5.265M).”
The PGA Championship has outdrawn the U.S. Open in three-straight years and four of the past five.
The third round’s 2.1 and 3.49 million avg. was boosted to 3.6 million with additional streaming data. So only 110,000 people streamed.
According to NBC, the final round delivered a total audience average of 5.41 million of which 5.265 million viewed through linear television.
The move to USA Network away from Golf Channel topped out at a 0.75 and 1.06 million average viewers for Friday coverage, down about 300,000 viewers from last year on Golf Channel where later airings helped. (The 2022 PGA Championship on ESPN saw a 1.5 million viewer average for Thursday’s first round and 2.1 million viewers over six hours of Friday coverage.)
In a press release, NBC offered some enlightening spin, with my translations:
“The most-watched final round of an East Coast U.S. Open since 2013 and up 65% from the prior East Coast-based U.S. Open (3.3 million, Winged Foot, 9/20/20).” The one played against the NFL with no crowds in September.
“Led by Peacock, the 2022 U.S. Open is the most-streamed golf event in NBC Sports history, totaling 244 million minutes* for all four rounds, up 74% vs. last year’s U.S. Open. Sunday’s final round delivered an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 148,000 viewers, nearly four times greater than both 2021 (Torrey Pines) and 2020 (Winged Foot).” With numbers like that, the ‘cock should be profitable by 2038.
“Featuring live U.S. Open coverage for the first time, USA Network delivered a TAD of 1.08 million viewers for second-round coverage on Friday – marking the network’s best weekday afternoon viewership since 2017 (12/26/17), excluding holidays.” It took four-and-a-half years to break a weekday record?
“Post-final round Live From coverage on Golf Channel averaged 176,000 viewers on Sunday – up 48% from comparable coverage last year.” So 2021’s post-final round Live From averaged 85,000 or so? Well, okay then.
Sean Zak is camped out in St Andrews for the summer—the poor lad—and offers a reminder to visit the updated R&A World Golf Museum where they currently have an exhibit of David Cannon’s best Seve Ballesteros images.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is enjoying his 13th hole U.S. Open reaction:
Time to start the countdown to St Andrews. If you aren’t signed up, come along for the ride it’s going to be a fantastic few weeks,