The PGA Championship was full of drama, from Brooks Koepka becoming the first player to win a Major while with LIV Golf to club pro Michael Block’s fairytale week that saw him finish tied for 15th.
However, despite a feel-good factor descending on Oak Hill Country Club following the tournament, the news on viewing figures wasn’t quite so rosy, with one report saying the figures were the lowest for the tournament since 2008.
Sports Business Journal’s Josh Carpenter wrote on Twitter that Saturday’s third-round coverage averaged 3.22 million viewers on CBS, an 11% drop from the 3.63 million viewers over the same round last year at Southern Hills.
Not surprisingly, more people tuned in for Sunday’s final round at 4,517 million. However, that represented an even steeper drop than last year’s finale that saw Justin Thomas claim his second PGA Championship title, with 14% fewer viewers.
Not only that, but the final round figure continues a trend of diminishing viewing figures in recent years. In 2021, 6.7 million viewers watched Phil Mickelson become the oldest Major winner in history, only for that to drop to 5.27 million in last year’s concluding round.
There have been suggestions that the PGA Championship has lost some of its identity since moving from its traditional August slot to May in 2018. During the build-up to last week’s tournament, Rory McIlroy voiced his concerns on that subject.
He said: “I always liked in August that this was glory’s last shot and there was a real identity there. Not saying that it’s lost any of that identity in terms of its still a Major championship, but I feel like having it be the last Major of the year maybe just gave it a little bit of something that it doesn’t quite have right now. “
Those disappointing viewing figures appear to back up McIlroy’s opinion, particularly considering the encouraging viewing figures for April’s Masters, which was the most watched golf telecast in five years, with over 15 million watching Jon Rahm clinch the title at Augusta National. That suggests there is still plenty of appetite for the game among TV viewers in general, and perhaps the PGA Championship specifically failed to capture the imagination of the public in the way it has in the past.
Another factor could be the absence of 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods, who is recovering from ankle surgery, an injury that will also see him miss the third Major of the year, the US Open.
All eyes will now be on that tournament in June, with the hope that the lower viewing figures reported for the PGA Championship are the exception rather than a new norm.