The Saturday finish at the Farmers Insurance Open could become an annual tradition.
The only question is whether a few other tournaments follow suit.
Farmers Insurance CEO Jeff Dailey told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week that the tournament will likely stick with its Wednesday-Saturday schedule for the foreseeable future. That shift allows the Farmers not to conflict with the NFL’s conference championship games on Sunday, and Golf Channel is using the open day on Torrey Pines’ South Course to broadcast, for the first time, the final round of an event on the Advocates Pro Golf Association, a circuit designed to promote diversity in the sport.
When asked whether the Farmers could conceivably switch back to its traditional Sunday finish, Dailey told the newspaper: “I don’t think so. It’s important to us that the ratings are strong, but we still get a tremendous amount of business benefit because we use this as motivation for our top agents around the country. That business benefit for us is probably stronger than a few incremental ratings points. If you take the ratings out of it, I like the Saturday finish better.”
Both the third and final rounds of the Farmers were broadcast on CBS, in primetime.
Full-field scores from Farmers Insurance Open
The altered schedule meant no early-week pro-am – which is a “net $1 million hit” for the event, according to tournament director Marty Gorsich – but he said the losses could be made up other ways, such as a tee-off gala.
“All the other elements are fine,” Gorsich told the newspaper. “I don’t see anything in our old format that says, ‘We’ve got to get back to that.’ People watching our event on national TV Friday, it might take a year for people to realize that. That’s how tradition gets built. It doesn’t start in the first year. It’s consistency over time for people to learn it and embrace it.”
Might other tournaments embrace the same schedule?
The first three Tour events of the new year – the Sentry Tournament of Champions (final week of regular season), Sony Open (wild-card playoff round) and American Express (division playoff round) – all have late Sunday finishes, when the highly popular NFL’s season is nearing its conclusion. NFL games accounted for 48 of the top 50 most-watched TV shows during the regular season, when the Tour’s fall schedule gets underway.
Dailey told the newspaper that the date change has been popular with players.
“I won’t say who,” he said, “but someone’s prediction was that three or four more tournaments might shift their dates as well.”