SAN DIEGO – The Netflix era is officially underway on the PGA Tour, with camera crews trailing players this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. Filming for the documentary series is expected to continue throughout the calendar year.
Twenty-two Tour players were mentioned in the press release as having committed to the project, offering production teams a glimpse not just inside the ropes but also into their personal lives away from the course. Some of those names are among the biggest in the sport, from Jordan Spieth to Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson to Brooks Koepka.
A looming question is just how revealing the show will be. There’s been a healthy dose of skepticism that Tour players – typically clean-cut and image-conscious, some with layers of management and representation – will be open and accessible enough to appeal to a new audience while also staying true to their core fans.
“Everybody’s going to be different,” Thomas said Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “I don’t plan on being any different of a person than I am. There could be guys that maybe try to act different or do something different just to appeal. You definitely have your guys that are more interesting than others, and me during an off-week isn’t really a whole lot of fun, it’s pretty basic. But then again, there’s guys, they go out on their boat all the time, they do whatever. I don’t know.”
One of those guys who goes out on his boat all the time, of course, is Johnson, who is making his first start of 2022 here at the Farmers. Coming off a frustrating season (by his lofty standards), Johnson shelved the clubs for a few months and only began hitting balls again last week in preparation for this event. Asked how he spent the time away, he said, “Pretty much anything but golf.” That could have made for some quality content.
Johnson, though, said that he hasn’t yet “gotten too far into that” filming process. He said he agreed to participate given the success of the docuseries’ predecessor, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” which has been credited with a large spike in interest in the sport.
“I didn’t really watch Formula 1 at all, and then I watched that series and now I’m hooked. I love it. I watch it every Sunday,” Johnson said. “So hopefully, maybe a fan that doesn’t really follow golf, maybe they watch it and now they’re really gonna watch golf and follow. So hopefully it will reach to some different viewers and we’ll get a lot more followers from it.”
Bryson DeChambeau (who is not participating) suggested the series will be more of a boon to some of the Tour’s lesser-known personalities than its more well-established superstars. Thomas agreed, saying, “I just think it’s a great opportunity for the Harry Higgs of the world, the Joel Dahmens, that are great, absolutely ridiculous human beings that have such great hearts but they’re so funny to be around. They deserve a spotlight for the kind of people that they are. I think their sense of humor is going to come out.”
Thomas’ focus remains squarely on his game, and he said he wouldn’t hesitate to “be done with it” if filming becomes a burden or hindrance to his preparation. He’s hoping to take viewers behind the scenes of what it takes to become a world-class player.
“The golf-course stuff is very obvious – everybody sees the footage of us in practice rounds on Golf Channel, or us in a tournament, so I don’t think that stuff is going to be anything groundbreaking,” he said. “But just the fun, different things that people wouldn’t necessarily see. They might see a picture or video on Instagram of me hitting balls at home, or me working out, but maybe not through an entire club-fitting or through a session with my dad, or me drinking beers with my buddies watching football. There’s a lot of different aspects that I think will be great for not only myself but other guys that gives people a little better understanding of who we are and grow our brand a little bit.”
Still, there will be a few notable absences from Season 1. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson won’t appear. Neither will Rory McIlroy; Patrick Cantlay, the Tour’s reigning Player of the Year; and DeChambeau, the Tour’s most polarizing star who is more focused on growing his own content-creation company.
The current world No. 1 also declined, for now. Jon Rahm explained Tuesday that he was approached last year about the project but was undergoing too many life changes at the time: moving houses, becoming a father, winning his first major.
“At the time, it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do for me,” he said. “In the future, if there’s a Season 2, maybe. But as far as I’m concerned, my life was making a big change, so let’s pump the brakes. That’s the only reason why.”