PGA Discontinues “Grand Slam of Golf” Event
    PGA Discontinues “Grand Slam of Golf” Event

    A lot of good ideas on paper fail to live up to the hype in reality. In that vein, the PGA of America announced in mid-March that they were ending their Grand Slam of Golf that has matched the winners of the four major golf championships every year in a 36-hole exhibition following the final PGA event of the fall season.

    In 2015, the event was cancelled due to remarks by current GOP Presidential front-runner Donald Trump made. The event was to be hosted at Trump National Golf Course in Los Angeles, but Trump’s remarks regarding Mexicans and illegal immigrants set off a firestorm, forcing the PGA to first look for a replacement venue, before deciding to cancel the event all together. In 2016, the PGA postured about trying to secure a new venue, before announcing their decision to discontinue the event.

    The exhibition matches began in 1979 and had been hosted continuously since 1986. Tiger Woods holds the record with 7 Grand Slam of Golf titles, including a massive 14-shot victory one year in the 36-hole format. Greg Norman won the event 3 times and Andy North, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els captured 2 titles.

    The fact of the matter is the world golf calendar has swelled in recent years with the introduction of World Golf Championship (WGC) events, the FedEx Playoffs and an increasingly competitive and lucrative European Tour. And, let’s not forget golf’s 4 major championships, the Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup. The addition of golf as an Olympic event in this year has seemed to saturate interest as fans, television viewers and the media became increasingly disinterested in the event over the last decade.

    The concept seemed to promise great competition between the world’s best players, but the event often had a flat, tired feel to it and failed to produce the kind of drama golf fans had come to expect at the major championships and compelling team competitions like the Ryder Cup.

    In that regard, the PGA of America deserves credit for deciding it was time to move on. Manufactured drama can only work so long. Remember the made-for-television events like “The Battle at Bighorn” and “The Showdown at Sherwood”? Those were ABC Television’s so-called Monday Night golf events that began in 1999. All of the events showcased Tiger Woods at a time when the player was at the peak of his powers, both on the golf course and as a media superstar.

    Ratings for the first two events were huge, on par with golf’s major championships. Unfortunately for ABC, the event peaked in its second iteration and ratings began a steady decline as the event progressed. In that first event, world number one Woods defeated world number two David Duvall, 2 and 1. The second event matched Woods against Sergio Garcia who’d finished second to Woods a year earlier at the PGA Championship. Garcia defeated Woods that evening 1 up and ABC scored a 7.6 Nielsen rating.

    After that, sponsors tried different formats including male/female teams matching Woods with Annika Sorenstam and David Duvall with Karrie Webb. The next year matched Woods with Jack Nicklaus and Garcia with Lee Trevino. One year the format brought in “big hitters” John Daly and the little known Hank Kuehne. By then, the handwriting was on the wall as viewership declined and media interest waned. The event was discontinued in 2005 and revived in 2012 for a Woods vs. Rory McIlroy match that was another ratings failure.