Worrying PGA Tour Trend Continues At Players Championship Despite Grandstand Finish

The PGA Tour's recent trend of declining viewership continued at the Players Championship, despite Scottie Scheffler's thrilling victory at TPC Sawgrass

Scottie Scheffler tosses his putter in the air after missing a putt at the Players Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scottie Scheffler’s historic victory at the Players Championship last week was a timely reminder that the PGA Tour is still capable of producing thrilling events for golf fans.

But a recent trend of falling viewership suggests that the tour still leaves much to be desired when it comes to attracting fans, two years into its battle with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

According to viewership stats reported by Sports TV Ratings on Twitter, NBC’s coverage of Sunday’s Players Championship drew 3.5 million viewers, a 17 per cent drop from last year’s final round of 4.1m.

In fact, according to Sports Media Watch, the 2024 Players Championship was the least-watched final round for the event billed as “golf’s fifth major” in the past 10 years, with the exception of 2022 (2.91m) when the tournament concluded on Monday due to weather delays.

The decline in viewership has been a worrying trend for the PGA Tour this year, with only 2.3m viewers reportedly tuning in to NBC’s final-round broadcast of the Arnold Palmer Invitational – also won by Scottie Scheffler – the previous week, a 30 per cent drop from last year’s 3.3m when Kurt Kitayama claimed the title.

The PGA Tour’s other signature events followed a similar decline, with ratings for the final round of the Genesis Invitational down five per cent from 3.4m in 2023 – which was won by new LIV Golf recruit Jon Rahm – to 3.2m this year. Even the opening round of the event at Riviera, which included Tiger Woods, performed poorly compared to last year, seeing a drop of 51 per cent.

Meanwhile, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was a disaster for the PGA Tour, with weather conditions forcing the final round to be delayed and eventually canceled, allowing LIV’s Mayakoba event on the Sunday – which drew 432,000 viewers – to hog the spotlight.

Last month's Mexico Open, which saw American rookie Jake Knapp claim his maiden tour title, also marked a fourth consecutive Sunday where viewership dropped compared to last year.

Tiger Woods playing just once, a run of outsider winners, missing LIV superstars and increasing fatigue over the ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are certainly factors that may have contributed to the year-on-year declines.

Jay Monahan holds his chin

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The reception towards PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at the Players Championship prize ceremony further highlighted golf fans’ growing feelings of frustration towards the tour and its leadership.

PGA Tour pro Billy Horschel echoed similar sentiments, telling Golfweek: “I, for one, as a golf fan, am tired of it. I think this whole bickering and taking shots at each other just needs to go away. If coming together gets that to go away and we get a deal done with PIF, that’s great.

“Now how does that turn into [LIV] players coming back to the PGA Tour? I don’t know.”

Rory McIlroy, who remains one of Monahan’s biggest supporters, said more focus on the game itself is needed to “re-engage” fans.

“If you look at the leaderboards, you look at the ratings, I felt like they really, really worked in 2023,” McIlroy said ahead of the Players Championship. “And for whatever reason, they’re not quite capturing the imagination this year compared to last year.

“I think, if I were to put my own perspective on it, it’s because fans are fatigued of what’s going on in the game. And I think we need to try to re-engage the fan and re-engage them in a way that the focus is on the play and not on talking about equity and all the rest of it.”

A memorable, grandstand finish at the Players Championship saw the PGA Tour receive its best viewing figures of the year to date. 

However, it's clear that more needs to be done to keep fans coming back in this fractured era of men's professional golf. 

Joel Kulasingham
News Writer

Joel Kulasingham is freelance writer for Golf Monthly. He has worked as a sports reporter and editor in New Zealand for more than five years, covering a wide range of sports including golf, rugby and football. He moved to London in 2023 and writes for several publications in the UK and abroad. He is a life-long sports nut and has been obsessed with golf since first swinging a club at the age of 13. These days he spends most of his time watching, reading and writing about sports, and playing mediocre golf at courses around London.