It’s officially Masters Week, once again signaling the rebirth of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere with precision trimmed emerald green grass, azaleas bursting in full bloom, and the sweet melody of Dave Loggins’ “Augusta” playing in the background.
Wait. What was that?
Oh yeah. It’s 2020, COVID-19 is still running wild, and The Masters will be played in November!
All Eyes on Augusta
During “normal” years, The Masters enjoys a perfect slot in the sports calendar.
Not only is it the first major on the PGA Tour, but it falls on the heels of NCAA March Madness and away from any significant competition from other pro sports.
This year will be much different as the collapsed sports season will result in Masters Sunday going head-to-head with the juggernaut that is NFL Sunday. It will also be the last golf major of the season and the warm and fuzzy Spring feelings will be replaced with Fall temperatures and early sunset, bringing out the sweaters, winter caps, mittens, and early afternoon finish.
So, with all of these changes, how will The Masters draw the audience in?
The Man in the Red Shirt
While it seems like an eternity, the reality is that Tiger Woods is back to defend his title.
No one has ever moved the needle in professional golf like Tiger and this year will be no different. It’s a problem that has been both a blessing and a curse for the past few decades. The PGA Tour has been on the constant lookout for the “next” Tiger, someone who could attract the casual sports fan to golf in the way that only the guy in the Sunday red shirt with the swoosh on his chest could.
Along the way, there have been dozens of candidates for the role, each bursting with talent and charisma. However, they all would eventually flat-line due to either to not winning enough or for being a bit too likable. Over time, their bright stars began to fade until they weren’t all that different from their peers.
Then, in 2019 the “Big Cat” returned to the scene he had dominated for so long to once again draw the attention of the sports world. His Masters’ victory renewed interest that had been waning since his departure.
While the Tiger 2.0 spike continued to bring eyeballs to the little white ball, the PGA Tour needed a long-term solution. They needed another polarizing athlete to move the needle.
Enter Bryson DeChambeau
For the avid golf fan, the name Bryson DeChambeau is a household one.
His early list of achievements including victories at the US Amateur and NCAA Individual Championship signaled that he would be one to watch on the PGA Tour.
However, despite earning three wins in the 2018 season, using a full set of clubs of the same length, and sporting an ivy league (newsboy) cap to pay tribute to the late Payne Stewart, Bryson was headed down the path so many other bright up-and-coming stars had before. He was great on the course, slightly unique, polite and friendly, and yet unable to drive clicks and viewership like Tiger had done before him. Aside from being the punching bag of Brooks Koepka’s trolling, he just wasn’t all that interesting to the average viewer.
Then, he decided to bulk up. A lot!
Rumors of a Bryson downing five to seven protein shakes a day, intense training sessions, and eye-popping distance from his driver began to make the rounds of the golf media. The once 190 lb. frame that blended in with the crowd was now a bulky 230 lbs., blasting drives into the atmosphere that typically are only televised a few times a year during long drive competitions.
As once predicted in Happy Gilmore, fans dig the long ball, and soon Bryson and his bombs were becoming headline news. While it’s still early, I’m bullish that rumors of him driving par fours will continue to attract an audience that might not otherwise tune in to golf. And should he find himself in contention this weekend, the speed of this migration will only increase.
The Most Prized Real Estate in Golf
If the above does come to be a reality this Sunday, one of the first questions viewers tuning in for the first time will surely ask is “What’s up with that hat?”
It’s different. It jumps off the screen. It gets noticed.
In the world of advertising, all of these things serve to make it extremely valuable.
And for the first time this week, that cap will be embroidered with the DraftKings logo, further highlighting the integration of the PGA Tour and ever-expanding legal sports betting here in the United States.
A Perfect Brand Ambassador
In so many ways, Bryson is the perfect ambassador for DraftKings.
Not only has he been the center of the golf universe for the past eight months, but his “Mad Scientist” nickname rooted in his math and science background can further push the narrative of fantasy sports and sports betting as “games of skill”. This has long been an important component of the push to legalize fantasy sports wagering and Bryon’s endorsement will only further develop this argument.
They also capture a golfer that is clearly on the rise and who will shape the future of golf in a way that Tiger did in the 2000s. The modern group of physically fit athletes strolling the links can be traced back to Tiger, and I will be surprised if current and future golfers don’t also attempt to follow Bryson’s bulked up, distance-first approach in the future.
Just as Rickie Fowler brought highlighter orange clothing to events, I can see a future in which many of the kids watching and playing also sport Bryson’s ivy style cap.
The golfers of tomorrow mimicking Bryson’s style and approach to the game, preserving tradition and pushing the game to new heights.
There’s just one tiny, annoying caveat that we need to discuss. And we will address that in part two Wednesday. After all, you’ll need something to fill the void of the Par-3 Contest cancellation.