Greg Norman and LIV Golf's attempt to market itself as 'golf, but louder' appears to have backfired after the competition made its televised debut in the United States last weekend. Hopes have been high within the multi-billion dollar breakaway competition that the LIV Series will become a legitimate rival to the PGA Tour - but the broadcast of LIV Golf Mayakoba well and truly fell flat.
The series' 2023 season opener in Mayakoba, Mexico last weekend was the first to be broadcast under LIV's recently struck deal with American network, the CW. Given the network has not produced a great deal of live sport coverage since it was established in 2006, many considered LIV's choice of broadcaster a curious one.
There can typically be any number of reasons why a program doesn't rate - but the unbelievable figure showing just 0.2 per cent of surveyed households tuned in to the LIV season opener undoubtedly made for tough reading at LIV headquarters. The dismal numbers contrasted to the PGA sanctioned Genesis Invitational, held the weekend prior, which attracted a 1.8 audience share for the third round.
The Genesis Invitational undoubtedly would have attracted a higher audience than the LIV Mayakoba broadcast thanks to iot being the venue for Tiger Woods' first pro outing since the Masters last year. Nonetheless, powerbrokers at LIV would no doubt be concerned to see their season opener easily out-rated by an episode of World's Funniest Animals, which aired on the CW later the same day.
LIV has established several points of difference to the PGA Tour, utilising a shotgun start so all players begin at the same time, as well as eliminating the cut and generally hosting smaller fields. LIV tournaments will be broadcast in Australia by Channel 7.
“With CW, Channel 7 and 7plus, to get out there and get this golf tournament viewed across the globe has been a major positive step and I’m proud of where we are in this short space of time,” LIV golf supremo Greg Norman told the network's Sunrise program last week.
Charles Howell III wins LIV opener despite ratings catastrophe
The season-opener was won by former PGA pro Charles Howell III, who fired an 8-under 63 to take control on the final day of the invitational at Mayakoba. His eventual four-shot victory was his first under the LIV banner.
Howell had seven birdies through 10 holes to take control on Sunday at El Camaleon, then had some help when Peter Uihlein had to hit three tee shots on the 12th hole in a triple bogey that removed any drama from the final round. Finishing at 16-under par, Howell won in his sixth start in LIV Golf and picked up $US4 million ($A5.9 million), with an additional $US1 million ($A1.5 million) for leading his team, the Crushers, to a nine-shot victory.
Australia's Cameron Smith finished in sixth place after a four-under 67 left him 10 shots off the lead at six-under for the tournament. LIV Golf's opening event in a 14-tournament schedule was a happy time for Howell, who won only three times in 23 seasons and 607 starts on the PGA Tour.
"It's great," Howell said. "It's a big win and we got the team win."
Two of his three PGA Tour wins were in playoffs, and the other was a two-shot win. Howell had a bogey-free card, and most of his birdies were in the 8-foot to 15-foot range as he ran off four in a row and rarely made any mistakes.
The 42-year-old from Augusta, Georgia played 13 times at Mayakoba when it hosted a PGA Tour event from 2007 until last November, with his best finish a tie for fourth.
"I've played here many times, so I had an idea what to expect," Howell said. "Around this place, there's double bogeys everywhere, so you never know."
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