Turner Sports has lined up a host of heavy hitters for TNT’s coverage of the 92nd PGA Championship, which tees off Thursday, August 12 at 1 p.m. Sponsors for the tour’s final major of the season include PGA official patrons Mercedes-Benz and RBC, as well as Northwestern Mutual, ING and Viagra.
As two of the PGA’s three highest-level supporters––American Express is the third; investment in a patron sponsorship runs between $6 million and $7 million per year––Mercedes and RBC will enhance their respective on-air messaging with an extensive presence on PGA.com.
The online home of the PGA is a division of Turner Sports’ interactive unit. Other sponsors making an appearance on PGA.com throughout the weekend include American Airlines and Westin Hotels & Resorts.
TNT will supplement its 20 hours of PGA Championship coverage with a number of exclusive multiplatform features. Extensive bonus coverage of the tournament will be available via the interactive video offering, PGA Championship Live, on PGA.com. During the first two rounds of live play, visitors to the site can follow one of two threesomes; last year, the designated group included Tiger Woods, defending champ Padraig Harrington and 2002 PGA winner Rich Beem.
Sidelined by back surgery, Beem won’t be playing through this time, although the duffer will be on hand to provide commentary and analysis throughout the weekend during PGA.com’s live coverage.
Designed to allow golf fans to truly customize their PGA experience, the online platform will also feature a picture-in-picture high-def video player and score overlays. A special social media integration will enable users to view the video content while interacting with friends on Facebook and Twitter.
When not following one of the two isolated groups of golfers, users can switch streams, opting to watch players take on Whistling Straits’ four par 3 holes, including the signature “Pinched Nerve” at 17, a narrow passage hemmed in by monster sand dunes and the chop of Lake Michigan. Another stream will feature hole-by-hole analysis as provided by touring pro Michael Breed and Jim Richerson, general manager & group director of golf for the Wisconsin-based Kohler Co. (Reminiscent of an Irish seaside course, Whistling Straits is located in Sheboygan County, Wis.)
The 2009 PGA Championship drove record traffic to PGA.com, as the site averaged 1.4 million daily unique visitors, a 94 percent increase from the previous year, and 206 million total page views. All told, Turner Sports’ online golf portfolio delivered 3.4 million video streams during the event, more than triple the 1.1 million served up the year before.
Fans who don’t wish to be tethered to their laptops will also have the option of looking in via their smart phones, courtesy of the PGA Championship App. Available for free from the iTunes App Store, the download provides live scoring and instant updates throughout the tourney. For a small fee ($1.99), users can upgrade the app in order to gain access to live video of the two marquee groups.
As a final wrinkle, TNT will present its first two rounds of coverage in 3D. Supplementary (and extra-dimensional) coverage will focus on the 12th and 17th holes. The close confines of the par 3 holes should make for a more manageable environment in which to shoot the 3D footage, said Matthew Hong, senior vp and general manager, sports operations, Turner Sports.
“In a nutshell, with a par 5 you have no idea where that first shot will land, and so there’s far too much ground to cover,” Hong said. “It’s a lot easier to draw a bead on the ball when you’re dealing with a 100-yard span.”
TNT’s coverage begins Thursday (1-8 p.m.) and continues through Sunday afternoon. CBS will air late coverage of the final two rounds (2-7 p.m.). This marks the 20th consecutive year Turner has telecast the PGA Championship.
Last year, TNT averaged a 1.4 US HH rating over its four days of tournament coverage, improving 75 percent from its 2008 numbers. Entering the final round, Tiger Woods held a 2-shot lead over South Korean Y.E. Yang, who at the time was ranked No. 110 in the world. Yang rallied to win by three strokes, robbing Woods of his 15th major.
CBS drew 6.2 million viewers with its Saturday coverage and closed out the 2009 tourney with an average draw of 10.1 million viewers on August 16. It was the second most-watched golf broadcast of the year, trailing only CBS’ coverage of the final round of The Masters (14.3 million).