Steph Curry, with his nine million Twitter followers, his MVP statue, his two championship rings and rare crossover talent he's willing to show off on a Web.com Tour stage, posted a first round 74 in the Ellie Mae Classic.
No one saw it live.
No one could. They had to follow social media postings like it was 2008 all over again.
On a busy day of golf that included the Women's British, a WGC in Akron and a secondary PGA Tour stop in Reno, the Ellie Mae was never on Golf Channel's schedule. Yet, as one of the world's most beloved and fascinating athletes in his prime attempted something bold, Curry's appearance on an exemption understandably got the most social media attention despite the lack of television coverage.
Imagine if The Logo, Jerry West, had decided to put his scratch handicap up against the pros in 1972 after winning 33-straight and the NBA title? It would have been an epic attention-getter but there was no option to televise such an event then. Now there is, and the PGA Tour missed a chance to show it's serious about becoming a broadcaster and serious about its minor-league equivalent, the Web.com Tour.
Golf Channel was criticized on social media for not showing Curry's round, but this one wasn't on them. So what an ideal opportunity for the PGA Tour, partners with Twitter and eager to show The Valley that pro golf is a product worth streaming on their burgeoning PGA Tour Live, right? Imagine the chance to stream the Web.com Tour to the hoodie set, who could watch their beloved Golden State Warrior play in a professional golf tournament as they sip Philz and cranked out world-changing code?
Yet the PGA Tour passed up a, gulp, "golden" opportunity to show that they are serious about getting in the broadcasting business. Was it cost? Was it too much work? Was it an oversight? Or some rights issue?
Those should not be stumbling blocks since the Tour has made clear it wants, at minimum, an ownership stake after 2021 while opting out of its network deal very soon. The goal, apparently, is to either move some tournaments to the burgeoning PGA Tour Live or bring in new bidders, perhaps Amazon or YouTube.
Lofty and ambitious dreams!
And it's a fantastic concept to focus on streaming until you tell a CEO paying $8-12 million for a tournament sponsorship that they'll be reaching 171,000 folks via streaming. Oh, and yourr logo will be hard to see because the viewer is watching on a tiny screen. One last negative? Those eyeballs who are currently seeing golf in the 19th hole grill or the local Yard House? Not happening (yet) when you go to streaming.
The possible erosion in already eroding audience sizes by moving some events to digital has not deterred the Tour from sending out signals that they are somehow a wronged party under Deane Beman's brilliant model. After all, they help networks sell 80% of their ads without lifting a finger while possibly making less than they should if they were owners of the airwaves. And the Tour makes clear on a daily basis they are in the millennial business with PGA Tour Live as the way to this future.
Commissioner Jay Monahan has wisely tried to walk some of this talk back by reiterating the importance of the "linear product" (network TV), while still dangling his fascination with new media. But way too many of his lieutenants and players haven't gotten the message: it's nice having people write you rights checks instead of writing the checks yourself as owner of the product.
Which brings us back to the Ellie Mae Classic.
With no way out of its Golf Channel arrangement until 2021, the tour started PGA Tour Live as their way of carrying action during earlier hours or to create a "product" to possibly break free from the Comcast-owned network. At the very least, PGA Tour live would help them negotiate an ownership stake that they once reportedly passed on when they originally negotiated the 10-year Golf Channel deal. The "they" in that sentence no longer work for the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour Live app gives them both leverage in the next negotiations, but also, theoretically, a way to cover action not currently in Golf Channel's rights windows. So I can't fathom a more opportune moment than Steph Curry's Web.com Tour appearance to show Featured Group coverage of the Warrior and his playing partners, Sam Ryder and Stephan Jaeger. Talk about a chance to reach the supposedly young and influential digital audience paying $39.99 a year.
Or, what a swell chance to join forces with San Francisco-based Twitter on coverage since they are a new PGA Tour partner and, presumably, big Warrior fans.
Instead, we got video highlights:
Live televised golf is expensive and difficult. Especially when you know the player in question is only likely to play two rounds. But there are new and cheaper ways to provide something that would have been enough to get the job done for those wanting to track this very unique appearance in a pro golf tournament.
And yes, the egos of other Web.com Tour players would have been bruised having a special broadcast of non-member Curry's round, but it might have also brought in new fans or generated intense buzz had he done something special. The failure to capitalize on this situation should be noted the next time the PGA Tour tells us how serious they are about getting in the business of entertaining paying customers.
(End of rant.)
There was some nice coverage of Curry's admirable performance, starting with the SF Chronicle's Ron Kroichick Tweets and his game story on Curry's opening round.
A great image gallery from the Chronicle's Michael Macor accompanies the piece.
Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler wrote "our Little Steph hung with the big boys" and noted:
Bad news for the Warriors. One more good day out here, even if Curry misses the cut after Friday’s round, and the Warriors are going to have to drag him off the golf course when training camp opens.
Make no mistake: For Curry, playing the Web.com Tour event — the pro golf equivalent of triple-A baseball — was no lark. He’s realistic, he knows he can’t really compete with full-time pro golfers, but Curry does not lack for quiet confidence. He’s closer to these guys than logic would dictate, and he’s got something to prove.
So there was tension all around Thursday. On the practice range before the morning rounds, I could see a thought balloon over the head of every golfer: “Beat Curry.”
For 155 golfers, their honor and dignity was at stake.
For Curry, there was something to prove, and a huge opportunity for embarrassment and disappointment.
BTW, fun note: Curry's caddie is Jonnie West, son of Jerry.
The Web.com Tour's Twitter account may have sensed the lack of live coverage and went all out on Twitter, with this nice video and also a great retweeted photo after that.
Here is part of Curry's post round interview courtesy of GolfChannel.com, discussing how he could barely feel his hands on the first tee:
And great comments here from Sam Ryder, playing partner and recent Web.com Tour winner who was a shot worse than Curry.
Last note: Curry beat ten Web.com Tour players Thursday, including three winners of Web.com Tour events in 2017!