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Interesting TV times looming
If Tiger watching is one of your favourites sports then stand by to find out where you'll being doing it next year... plus - caddies with a difference.

Do you enjoy watching the PGA Tour on television? If so, you’ve been doing a bit of channel hopping over the past three years. And you’re probably about to be doing it again. The story so far. In June 2006, Setanta made its mega-fanfare move into golf. With effect from January 2007, it would take over UK coverage of the PGA Tour from Sky. It was a six-year deal which turned out to run for only 2½ years, until the company’s demise in June.

At the launch announcement, the broadcaster’s director of sports, Trevor East, declared: “This is a major coup for Setanta.” It gave the company the rights to 40 PGA Tour events plus more senior tournaments than you’d want to shake a zimmer at. It did not, however, give it any of the majors or the World Golf Championships. The BBC has the Open and the Masters; Sky the US Open, the USPGA and all the WGCs.

It was also an expensive coup. Nobody officially divulged the figure then, and certainly no one in the know is going around bragging about it now, but contemporaneous reports suggested the deal was for $120 million. That was reputedly more than five times the equivalent fee Sky had been paying. If each year was worth $20 million, the PGA Tour has likely suffered a paper loss of around $65-$70 million (that pain to be assuaged by whatever happens for the contract term beginning in 2010).

The PGA Tour obtained a quick band-aid solution, with its tournaments being shown on Eurosport from late June until the end of this season. Again, accurate figures are hard (no, make that impossible) to come by, but given the speed with which the contract was concluded and that there were no other bidders, it is safe to assume that it’s for a lot nearer $10 than $10 million for the half-year. From the beginning of 2010, the Tour will doubtless be hoping that Sky might return to the fold or that ESPN, which has picked up the Premiership football rights held by Setanta, will step into the breach.

Will they?

A spokesman for Sky said: “We never talk about rights that we don’t have.” He added: “We have spent over two years building up Golf Night [since the loss of PGA Tour events to Setanta] to make it the programme it has become, and we would have to take that into account in anything we did.” On the other side of the road, the stance is that “ESPN is interested in all rights when it makes commercial sense to acquire them”.

Tiger Woods is not only one of the longest drivers on the PGA Tour, he’s commandingly the biggest driver of TV ratings for it. The successful bidder for these rights will probably only get ten tournaments at most with him in them. It’s not easy to do the maths to make everything add up.

Ty Votaw, executive vice-president of international affairs at the PGA Tour, said: “We are in discussions withmultiple parties and we expect that we would be making an announcement sometime between now and the end of the year as to what will happen from 2010 onwards. We do have a timetable for those negotiations in mind but I don’t want to talk about what that timetable is.” How high will the bar be set this time around? One thing is surely a safe wager. Neither Sky nor ESPN, let alone Eurosport, will be prepared to do what Setanta did: shell out enough money to bust the business.

Eye Candy Caddies is an organisation founded five years ago by a woman called Sarah Stacey. If they were Ronseal, they’d be doing exactly what it says on the tin. Just go to the website and see what I mean. The girls have been in the press lately because they have been banned from some golf clubs, says Stacey, “because we’ve been photographed in lingerie”.

Not that they wear that little while caddying. Objections have apparently also been raised because their on-course clothing is “not appropriate” now that golf is set to be in the Olympics from 2016. Heck, anyone seen what those women wear for synchronized swimming?

Stacey has 150 girls on her books, models who have been coached in golf eitiquette. “We do charity days,” she says, “and get hired by many reputable financial institutions” – not that there are many of those around right now. One of the caddies told the Metro newspaper she was desperate to meet and marry a golf pro. Mmm, good-looking maybe, but I think she might not be looking in quite the right place.

November 2009

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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