A Golden New Era
A year ago, our founder and CEO, Jay Ewing, was interviewed on the Golficity Golf Show by Frank Fasano. One of the main topics of the interview was the state of the game and in particular the drop-off in interest in the professional game.
This was immediately after the Masters that Bubba Watson had won in his inimitable swashbuckling style. Great for TV ratings, right? Wrong. The ratings for Sunday’s final round were a dismal 24% less than in 2013 when Adam Scott won at Augusta.
The reason for such a drop was simple; Tiger Woods did not play. Golf’s dominant and polarizing player was battling with injuries, age and a game that would no longer cooperate with him. Later in the year, Woods would take another break from competitive golf and hire a new swing coach. His results this spring have been pedestrian at best as Woods has now fallen out of the Top 100 ranked players in the world.
Even with his poor play, when Woods enters an event, interest and attendance increases an astonishing 50%. However, if he continues to play poorly that interest will dwindle.
The popularity of professional golf is directly correlative to getting new players to try the game and to encouraging infrequent players to play more. The more the interest “needle” is raised, the better it is for the game.
In April 2014, Scott was the #1 ranked player and 24 year old Rory McIlroy was playing indifferent golf as he tried to get comfortable with both new equipment and a new management team.
What golf needed was a passing of the torch form Woods to the next great superstar. But who would that be?
In his interview with Golficity’s Fasano, Ewing predicted that McIlroy would emerge as the game’s next superstar. In a scintillating stretch of golf in the summer of 2014, McIlroy won The Open Championship, the WGC Bridgestone and the PGA Championship to cement his place as the game’s best player.
Ewing was also buoyant about the LPGA Tour and its array of stars. In particular, he thought that Michelle Wie would finally realize her long-awaited potential which she would do by winning the U.S. Open two months later to register her first Major Championship.
Ewing however was especially enthused about then 17-year old Lydia Ko. In the last 12 months, the Kiwi sensation has won six more times. In February of 2015 she became the #1 ranked player in the world, becoming the youngest player in history to do so. The increased audience and attention that players like Ko have brought to the ladies game has resulted in the LPGA Tour’s renaissance under the stewardship of Commissioner Mike Whan. In 2015, the LPGA Tour will conduct events in 14 countries and has become a global presence in sports.
Just as great stars need supporting actors to create amazing theater, so too do McIlroy and Ko need players to push them to the limits of their enormous talents.
Ko has a host of amazing players that will challenge her supremacy who include: South Korea’s Imbee Park, Americans Stacy Lewis and Wie and Norwegian star, Suzann Pettersen.
In the past month, Jordan Spieth captured the Masters , McIlroy won the WGC Match Play Championship, and last week Rickie Fowler won the PLAYERS Championship .
McIlroy further distanced himself from world #2, Jordan Spieth, with a virtuoso performance at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
McIlroy took command of the Wells Fargo event with a course record 11-under par in the 3rd round (he broke his own course record) before cruising to a 7 stroke victory. It is his 11th victory on the PGA Tour and his 24th world-wide win as a professional for the now 26-year old Northern Irishman.
It would also seem that the torch has indeed been passed and that a golden new era of golf has dawned.