September 23, 2015 / 9:59 PM / 2 years ago

PGA Tour chief calls season 'A-Plus' thanks to young stars

Sep 23, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; PGA commissioner Tim Finchem addresses the media the state of the PGA and the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA (Reuters) - PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the emerging crop of young golf stars had made 2015 “the strongest year we have had on the PGA Tour, period”.

Calling the season “A-Plus, 5-Star”, Finchem gushed about the youth movement on the tour and the quality of play that not only made 2015 such a success but augured well for the future.

“Roughly 50 percent of all the tournaments in the last two years have been won by players in their 20s,” Finchem said in a ‘State of the PGA’ press conference on the eve of Thursday’s opening round of the season-ending Tour Championship.

“When you think about Jordan (Spieth), and Rickie (Fowler) and Rory (McIlroy) and Jason (Day), followed right behind by players like (Robert) Streb and (Danny) Lee and (Brooks) Koepka, it’s a continuing waterfall of talent.”

Finchem said television ratings illustrated the impact of the rise of the new wave.

“Our broadcast numbers are up over 20 percent over the previous year, which is a stunning increase and has to do with the number of playoffs, the attractiveness of the players who are competing and winning,” said Finchem.

“And all that adds up to us being very bullish as we look forward to the next four or five years.”

The commissioner also cited a series of long-term extensions of sponsorship deals that were reached as a sign of the health of the tour.

“Over 60 percent of our tournaments are at five years or in excess of five years in their commitment,” he said.

Finchem also said there were pronounced gains in new media, including the launch of PGA TOUR live, and social media, with 36.5 million people in the United States following tour players, tournaments and the PGA Tour brand.

“So, in a nutshell, I would say we had an A-plus year, a 5-star year.”

Finchem felt the multiple successes of 2015 spoke well for the growth of the game itself.

“Historically in the United States, going back to 1960, there’s a direct correlation between the level of viewership and interest in the professional game and participation growth in the game,” the commissioner said.

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes

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