Given that 99% of golf viewers watch the game on TV or streaming instead of attending the actual event, the power of the electronic product itself cannot be overstated. And from its humble origins in the early 1970s to becoming the monolithic enterprise it is today, the PGA Tour has discovered more value in visual support than perhaps any other sports organization.

The local NFL or NBA team resides just down the street. Major League Baseball offers 81 chances to see your hometown club in action each year. Professional golf, however, does not have home games. It lacks the civic bond that plays a huge role in separating successful franchises from struggling franchises. The Tour is essentially a caravan that happens in a different location each week, entertaining fans for four or five days before packing up and heading to the next destination.

This makes network television a vitamin of great strength, especially in a world where health is synonymous with wealth. Millions of followers tune in regularly, and while golf doesn’t generate the same massive following as college or professional football, the demographics of that audience are both a goldmine and a guarantee. Companies become title sponsors, which makes the players rich and the front office very happy.

Full stands at TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship still represent a tiny fraction of golf’s audience, making the broadcast presentation all the more important for the PGA Tour.

It also makes headquarters nervous. Or protector. Maybe a little paranoid. Does the coverage provided by CBS and NBC best reflect the dynamics of the whole operation? Does the quality of presentation really matter? Have objectivity and critical analysis become dinosaurs in a competitive environment where boos are never heard, where brilliance reigns but where glaring mistakes are frequent?

To what extent does the Tour try to control all these editorial variables? Does it discourage advertisers from making negative comments or focusing on the misfortunes and stupid decisions that often define winners and losers? Does he hover over the lineup like a prying Little League dad, applying influence to the point of interference? Some people in the industry insist that all of this happens.

Others who would say that is not the case, although it is hard to imagine Camp Ponte Vedra, a practical empire if there ever was one, not ruling over such a crucial department for its prosperity. tax and its relations with the public.

“We were never very involved in that,” says former commissioner Deane Beman, who led the Tour from 1974 to 1994. “It was the job of the network. We tried to make suggestions but we we haven’t succeeded enough [at the time] to tell them how to do it.

What separates the Tour from other sports leagues is that it is not really a league. It is a member-driven organization in which the primary mission is to serve its constituency, not a commercially powered organization designed to generate revenue through public support or approval. In a way, he owes nothing to the rest of us. It can work however it sees fit, provided the players themselves benefit from the system, and since Tiger Woods appeared in late 1996, everyone has reaped substantial rewards from their Tour affiliation.

Beman may have left office nearly three decades ago, but the structure he designed and the policies he implemented remain largely intact. For example, the Tour does not disclose information regarding player fines or other disciplinary action, as is customary in other major sports. It provides no voting details for Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year – no extended results or total number of ballots submitted – a lack of disclosure that surely explains why the awards receive little support. media attention.

These are relatively minor matters, however, compared to the Tour’s disdain for public criticism or a failure to “follow the script”, as one announcer put it. Another broadcaster recalls being called to the mat by a high-ranking network supervisor for not mentioning the FedEx Cup standings while on duty, which became routine procedure. (and overworked) on every weekend TV show.

“He didn’t call me personally,” the culprit said of current commissioner Jay Monahan. “He only deals with guys his level, who are the big guys in New York, with the understanding that someone will spread the word. [of the Tour’s displeasure] to the culprit”.

In recent years, one of the Tour’s biggest pet peeves involves any reference to on-air prize money, which was once a focal point before the mail arrived and blew up the business model. FedEx Cup points are now the only metric that matters. Overall season tallies, biggest moves of the week, details on the stack of ducats awarded to the last champion…

If you’re one of the huge legion of golf enthusiasts doomed to spend your Sundays locked in a small cell inside the prison of useless information, you might want to consider engaging a mute button like lawyer. “Absolutely ridiculous,” a network source said of the Tour’s insistence on constantly mentioning its post-season derby. “After 15 years you would think they are slacking off a bit, but it only seems to be getting worse.”

In fairness, the men who run the most powerful machine in golf are responsible for preserving the Tour’s stellar image – any discerning golf fan knows that the best players in the world avoid the police blotter and look after generally of their own business. The idea that any unfavorable comments from anyone in the cabin will tarnish that reputation, however, is an unnecessary twisting exercise.

Longtime NBC analyst Johnny Miller set the franchise standard to an almost unattainable level, perhaps because he was so hard on himself when he failed to achieve his own. expectations. Paul Azinger had a wicked fastball when his broadcasting career started at ABC in the mid-2000s. He’s mellowed over the years, perhaps aware of the comeback fire that comes from a blowing man. a three-stroke lead with nine holes to play.

That said, Azinger can always bring it when the mood takes him. Nick Faldo could get annoyed when something hit him pious, usually a strategic mistake – Sir Nick didn’t speak in full sentences and he certainly didn’t throw punches either. As a matter of fact? The truth must be told. We’re talking about a sporting event here, a place where the competition is intense and where thousands of fans have shown up ready to make an emotional investment.

Just as there are winners and losers, there are good causes and others that don’t. If the Tour is indeed trying to control the message in its dealings with CBS and NBC, perhaps Monahan now sees he has a lot more fish to fry. It can start with a shark.