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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Scottie Scheffler’s Dominance on the Links: A Boon or Bane for Golf?

  • The Masters champion is also the big betting favorite at the PGA Championship.
  • Golf viewership has been struggling this year.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One player comes into the PGA Championship with the eyes of the golf world upon him: Scottie Scheffler (above). This year’s Masters champion has won four out of his last five tournaments, and he is the overwhelming favorite to lift the trophy at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. 

But Scheffler’s victory at Augusta National, his second green jacket, didn’t seem to generate widespread mainstream interest. CBS drew an audience of roughly 9.5 million viewers for Sunday’s final round, down 20% from the 12 million that watched Jon Rahm come from behind to beat Brooks Koepka in 2023. At the time, Front Office Sports media expert Michael McCarthy asked the question: “Does golf TV have a Scottie Scheffler problem?”

Well, Scheffler won again the following week on Hilton Head Island, S.C., but the final round, which was interrupted by a rain delay, garnered 2.15 million viewers, down almost 50% from last year when 4.15 million people watched the conclusion of the RBC Heritage tournament, in which Matthew Fitzpatrick beat Jordan Spieth in a playoff. Scheffler hasn’t played since then, as he’s been awaiting the birth of his first child.

What’s the Deal?

Is Scheffler really what’s keeping more people from turning into golf broadcasts, though? At least one sports media expert thinks that the LIV Golf–PGA Tour battle, not Scheffler’s dominance, is the biggest reason for viewership declines. “You lose some competitive aspects,” Lee Berke, the president and CEO of consultancy LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, tells FOS

That reasoning could explain why PGA Tour TV audiences aren’t as high this year, but not why the Masters was down, as all of the top LIV players competed at Augusta. So, what about Scheffler’s dominance? Is it too much? “I think people appreciate excellence,” ESPN golf host Scott Van Pelt said. “We’re always looking for that next person that we can say reminds us of this person. [But] no one’s going to remind us of Tiger [Woods].”

If Scheffler wins the PGA Championship, he would be the first golfer since Spieth in 2015 to win the first two majors of the year. That would put him halfway toward the calendar grand slam—something even Woods never accomplished.

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