LPGA star Stacy Lewis gave an interview with GOLF.com where she addressed the pay gap between the LPGA and PGA Tours. She explained that she was frustrated with the difference in pay when “we’re doing the same thing and the only difference is the TV numbers and the TV ratings. That’s really it.” Unfortunately, that is a pretty big factor for those who determine the purse. TV ratings drive advertiser and sponsor decisions, determine coverage choices, and in turn (largely) dictate the purse for that week’s event. If an event has relatively few people watching, advertisers and sponsors adjust their budgets accordingly, and the event is unable to offer a large purse.
The men’s and women’s US Opens both taking place at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014 provides an interesting opportunity to compare events with fewer variables. The 2014 US Women’s garnered the largest purse in history up to that point at $4 million. In contrast, the men played for $9 million in their event the prior week. The USGA maintained a policy of not releasing separate attendance numbers, but it is estimated that attendance was roughly just over one third as high for the women. TV ratings for the women’s final day were a record 1.7 (71% increase from 2013) while the men earned a 3.3 (46% decline from 2013) on their championship Sunday.
Is men’s golf more entertaining to watch than women’s events? Is the problem, like Lewis says, simply a matter of gaining more exposure? Let us know what you think in the comments below!