Looking about 24 hours into the future, people are going to start looking for where to watch the PGA Championship, find out that most of the golfers they want to watch are on ESPN+ (which costs $4.99 a month), complain about it, and then possibly figure it out.
The following groupings are happening on Thursday:
- Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry (beginning at 11:11 a.m.)
- Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose (beginning at 11:22 a.m.)
- Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas (beginning at 11:33 a.m.)
Tiger is the biggest draw, Koepka is the two-time defending champ, and Thomas is currently ranked no. 1 in the world. Spieth, Johnson, Rose, and McIlroy are also big names.
While there will be look-ins on ESPN SportsCenter which will air in the early afternoon, to watch them live you’re going to have to navigate ESPN’s direct-to-consumer streaming paywall. ESPN’s TV coverage of the PGA Championship begins at 4:00 p.m., which means those nine golfers will be done or mostly done by then.
ESPN does have some big names who are teeing off on TV on Thursday:
- Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott (beginning at 4:47 p.m.)
- Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia (beginning at 4:58 p.m.)
On Friday, these groupings will be flipped so the first people we mentioned will be on TV and the latter will be on ESPN+.
While the British Open airs all day on Golf Channel and NBC, it is common at the other golf majors for television coverage to start later in the day than the tournament does on Thursday and Friday. However, putting these groupings behind a paywall is a new wrinkle. I expect to see much griping about this on Twitter.
If ESPN and other networks continue to lose subscribers through the cable and satellite bundles, we can also expect to see an increase in direct-to-consumer offerings like this one. With golf, you can expect that already as the PGA Tour Live is transitioning to ESPN+ in 2022.