Rory McIlroy poised to push panic button on ‘pretty jarring’ PGA Tour TV numbers

SAN ANTONIO — The fatigue is real. Talk of growing the game has officially been put on the backburner.

In the aftermath of nearly two years of PGA Tour-LIV Golf feuding, Rory McIlroy said Wednesday he isn’t surprised that many golf fans have become disenchanted, but he sounded more than just mildly concerned about the ramifications that appear to be manifesting in recent viewership numbers.

Speaking in San Antonio as he prepares for his last tuneup before the 2024 Masters, McIlroy said the raw data from PGA Tour telecasts is alarming, as one in every five former TV viewers has decided to shut the product off.

“I know this isn’t a be-all, end-all, but if you look at the TV ratings of the PGA Tour this year, they’re down 20 percent across the board,” he said. “That’s a fifth. That’s big. I would say the numbers on LIV aren’t great either in terms of the people tuning in. I just think with the fighting and everything that’s went on over the past couple years, people are just getting really fatigued of it and it’s turning people off men’s professional golf, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.”

While the four-time major champ is focused on his own game, especially in light of his failure to crack the top 15 in any of his first five starts of 2024, he’ll be keeping an eye on how TV viewers respond to the first major of the year in Augusta. But then he believes an even truer indication will come from the other three majors on the schedule.

“It’s going to be really interesting to see how the four major championships do, or even the three because put Augusta aside, I think that sort of lives in its own world,” he said. “It will be really interesting to see how the major championship numbers fare compared to the other bigger events because there’s an argument to be made if the numbers are better and you’ve got all the best players in the world playing, then there’s an argument to say ‘OK, we need to get this thing back together.’

“But on the flip side, if the numbers aren’t as good, it’s an argument to still say we need to put everyone back together because people are losing interest in the game even if they don’t want to tune in to the four major championships.”

2024 Cognizant Classic
2024 Cognizant Classic

Rory McIlroy plays a shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the 2024 Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches at PGA National. (Photo: Brennan Asplen/Getty Images)

Many assumed that additional exposure to the game through PGA Tour Live on ESPN+ and other online avenues would lead to a rise in viewership numbers, all while more people are playing the game in record numbers and consuming more golf content online.

But McIlroy, who in the Netflix documentary “Full Swing” described himself as the closest player on Tour to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, said recently that it’s been difficult to see some of the world’s best players not matching up on a consistent basis.

“That’s where I said like things need a correction and things are unsustainable because I’m close with NBC and the people that really care about these things and the people that tune in to watch golf,” he said. “You know, 20 percent’s a pretty jarring number this year.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek