According to the Associated Press, ESPN won the PGA Tour’s streaming rights from NBC Sports, which is a big catch for ESPN+ — and golf fans hoping for a better viewing experience.
There’s fun to be had with golf coverage, yet it hasn’t really translated from the Internet to TV telecasts. Other than watching the live shots, Twitter is probably the best place to get your golf fix.
All this is to say, ESPN and ESPN+ have a golden opportunity to grow golf with this new deal.
#BrooksWasHere: Breaking the mold
Golf coverage has changed drastically in the era of social media. What was once an uppity, elitist game bears the brunt of overdue parody and undercutting humor. Levity, ah.
In fact, even if you’re not a fan of the sport — or think golf isn’t a sport, period — there’s some hilarity to find on the Internets about this game.
Firstly, let’s give a shout out to No Laying Up. Surely you’re familiar with World No. 1 golfer Brooks Koepka? He’s won four majors over the past three seasons — and No Laying Up was earlier on him than anyone.
Receipts, you ask? For proof, in a more upbeat spin on The Shawshank Redemption “Brooks was here” inscription, No Laying Up created a hashtag, which criticized the TV coverage — namely, the lack thereof — for one of the rising stars in American golf.
Just a small sample of what we’re talking about here:
But the “golf fanalysts” as they describe themselves don’t pull punches when it comes to other players. For example, this past week regarding Patrick Reed and John Rahm:
No Laying Up has paved the way for this more fun-oriented golf commentary. From their “EJECTION” GIFs when someone chokes away a tournament, to their patented #TourSauce, it’s the place to go for the modern golf fan.
Bob Menery takes the baton — but too far
Now, we can’t discuss modern golf coverage without the great Bob Menery. The man who pioneered a new wave of sports analysis overall with his, ahem, colorful color commentary.
Although Menery still posts videos from other sports, the PGA Tour cracked down on him a while back. Apparently, they didn’t like the fact that Menery wildly speculated about Dustin Johnson’s nightlife — among many other things.
I don’t personally feel comfortable posting any of Menery’s videos in this space. Most of his golf content has been taken down at the PGA Tour’s behest anyway.
And that’s the point. Menery is still doing his thing, delighting all the sports bros. While it’s sad we won’t see anything more from him in golf, Menery represented pushing the extreme too far. At least in golf.
ESPN+: PGA Tour’s perfect change of scenery?
Tiger Woods has elevated golf’s popularity to unprecedented heights throughout his legendary career. However, Woods is nearing the end of his career, and golf is too reliant on him to move the needle.
Streaming is a possible antidote. It tends to merely supplement to live telecasts. Instead of being a secondary underling, why not make it better?
And by that I mean possibly doing some or all of the following:
- Microphones in the hole — like Fox Sports already does — and attached to either the player or the caddie. You could either make it a hot mic, live, or do a tape delay.
- This feature could be used like the NBA or NFL, but with more insight into strategy and not just generic phrases of encouragement to teammates.
- Human interest stories: every player has their own, unique journey to the big show. Not everyone has Tiger or Rory-level talent. Even then, it’s incredibly difficult.
- Whether it be world-class players, rising stars, golfers in danger of losing their Tour card or longtime pros finally getting their shot. Tons to mine from here.
- Qualifying rounds coverage: A journalist named Ryan French was just hired by PGATour.com for his extraordinary work in this niche. Check out his debut here. Here’s a bit of his unique insight:
ESPN+ has all kinds of avenues to explore. Taking fans inside the ropes to hear discussions about course management in the midst of constant pressure seems like a no-brainer.
Plus, if more light is shed on just how difficult it is to get to this point in golf, and what pros put themselves through, it could change attitudes about golf worldwide. For the most part, there are a ton of everymen scrapping to make it — incredible underdog stories.
With Disney as a parent company and bundle deals featuring Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+, the PGA Tour can reach more people than ever. Let’s hope ESPN+ picks up the slack and does something with it.