Golf’s TV calendar from Thanksgiving through Christmas puts a heavy emphasis on family fun, fuzzy feelings and Tiger Woods. The festive swing offers a welcome reprieve from the internecine bickering over how Official World Rankings are calculated and whether tournaments on the Saudi-backed LIV circuit should be eligible to earn OWGR points.
The Tiger Woods Hero World Challenge in Albany, the opulent resort community on the south shore of the Bahama’s New Providence Island where FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried remains holed up, kicks off the December slate next week. The festive swing is capped by the PNC Championship, pairing major winners with a son/daughter or a parent for two rounds of hug-emoji vibe best ball the weekend of the 17th. Sandwiched between the 20-player competition benefiting Woods’ TGR Foundation, the Tavistock Foundation and the Bahamas Youth Foundation and the Pittsburgh-based bank’s family celebrating outing is the belle of the ball.
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“We have the four biggest celebrities on the PGA Tour. Obviously, it was a very interesting year on the PGA Tour, so a lot can be discussed by Charles Barkley and our other commentators,” he adds, The Match producer Bryan Zuriff says, adding that they’ve never all played in a group together on television.
“It’s going to be wild. There will be some great conversations between the players and our announcers,” he adds.
The PIP results, released early this week, saw the $100 million year-end bonus prize pot divvied out to the tour’s biggest needle movers with the aforementioned foursome reaping the largest checks.
It is scored by a fivesome of popularity gauging analytics: broadcast exposure, media mentions, Q-Score and the MVP Index, a social media measurement tool co-developed by Jordan Spieth’s father. The latter two criteria are being nixed going forward in favor of new golf fan awareness and general population awareness gauges. An extra $6 million was split evenly between Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Young and Sam Burns who all would have cracked the top 20 had the new measures already been in place.
As for the order on top, Tiger Woods once again lorded over the leaderboard claiming the $15 million top prize. Rory McIlroy ($12 million), Jordan Spieth ($9 million) and Justin Thomas ($7.5 million) were right on this tail.
The 12-hole Turner Sports bi-annual spectacle will air in an evening time slot for the first time, with floodlights illuminating the fairways and greens of Pelican Golf Club in Belleair Florida on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET on TNT. The event, which has raised tens of millions for charity over the years, is set to benefit Hurricane Ian relief efforts.
Oddsmakers give Spieth and Thomas the early edge, most likely because Tiger Woods hasn’t logged a competitive round since he missed the cut at the Open Championship in July. But any rust will be slaked off at the Hero World Challenge and the 15-time major champion’s leg injury shouldn’t be a factor due to the brevity and the format.
“He’s going to play in the Bahamas the week before as a tune-up and he’s playing the week after at the PNC. This setting is good for him because it’s 12-holes in a golf cart. I think you’ll see the best of Tiger,” Zuriff says.
Looking out on the horizon on future iterations of the Match, considering the animus boiling between the PGA Tour and the breakaway LIV Golf series, the thought of pitting the two against each other surely crossed Zuriff’s mind.
“Potentially, who knows? I wouldn’t say it’s in the cards right now. I think both sides need to work out things but maybe down the road that’s obviously something that we all know would work,” he says.
A seasoned Hollywood producer, whose credits include Ray Donovan and Escape at Dannemora, Zuriff knows a thing or two about getting properties on television. So, when asked to opine on whether LIV will land a TV deal in 2023, he ventured a forecast, “I predict they’ll pay for a television deal.”
‘Exhibition golf’ is a label that’s often hurled at the LIV Golf series by detractors as a pejorative since they view themselves as a real deal league. But the Match is made for TV golf minus the identity crisis.
“I think we do a phenomenal job and we are certainly not spending billions of dollars like LIV is—I like our model financially,” Zuriff says.
“With our charity element, with our star power and our conversations between big celebrities and their love for golf, we’ve grown the game when others have stated to be ‘growing the game’ but it feels different than what I think we’re doing,” he adds.