Young guns are building interest: Golf Channel chief

Tue Dec 22, 2015 10:55pm EST
 
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - A changing of the guard in professional golf is in full swing and early returns show that the sport's young guns are drawing viewers even as Tiger Woods fades from the spotlight, says Golf Channel president Mike McCarley.

"2015 is going to match the highest-rated year ever on Golf Channel, matching 2013, the year in which Tiger won five times," McCarley told Reuters in an interview.

That was 20-year-old Golf Channel's previous high-water mark in terms of television ratings and the last splash from Woods, who won five of 16 tournaments he played in 2013 and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year for a remarkable 11th time.

Since then, back injuries have derailed the nearly 40-year-old Woods, but the rise of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler to join 26-year-old Rory McIlroy in golf's elite has captured the attention of golf viewers.

"Looking back, 2015 may have been the changing of the guard," said McCarley, whose channel is available to some 80 million households in the United States and whose programming reaches more than 80 countries worldwide in 12 languages.

The next era for golf is likely to contrast with the reign of Woods, who dominated the game and carried fan interest on his shoulders, and McCarley sensed that a new age of rivalries was looming.

"These are young players who are going to be around for 20 years and it will take some time for them to build their fan bases," he said. "We're on the very leading edge of this trip, but we're seeing the momentum build significantly."

Spieth got the 2015 major championship season off to a flying start with his decisive win at the Masters, and followed that with victory at the U.S. Open two months later.   Continued...

 
A golfer casts a shadow as he practises on the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, July 10, 2005. BLIFE REUTERS/Max Rossi