LIV Golf just earned its highest TV rating yet. But it’s not that simple

Joaquin niemann wins liv golf event

Joaquin Niemann is sprayed with champagne by his teammates following his LIV Golf season-opening victory.

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It was a perfect (TV ratings) storm for LIV Golf during the first weekend of its 2024 season. For starters, a literal storm wiped out the final round round of the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. LIV’s competition was suddenly off the board. 

Then came the actual golf, which found Joaquin Niemann trying to finish off a rollercoaster of a tournament. He started his week with a 59 in the first round, setting the course record at Mayakoba, and then stumbled in the second round with a two-stroke rules infraction. He was now getting chased by Sergio Garcia, his idol, and Jon Rahm, one of the best golfers of his generation. It was an appealing narrative.

Well, Rahm buckled. Garcia had multiple attempts to win in a long playoff, and ultimately it came down to a final putt from Niemann that fell under the floodlighting of a nearby leaderboard screen. As far as scenes go, this one was unique. It didn’t hurt that elsewhere in the world of sport was … not much. The NFL was in its bye week before the Super Bowl, which meant more potential eyeballs for LIV.

The result of all that feels a bit obvious now: more people watched LIV Golf Sunday than ever before. The final round drew 432,000 viewers, according to Nielsen, which is 100,000 more compared to this event a year ago. It was nearly three times what LIV pulled on Saturday afternoon (168,000) when it was actually in a true viewership competition with the Tour. 

So there it is — a big, shiny number for LIV Golf during its final round. A fantastic start to its season. Something the league can point to as a standard of success. And it comes during a time where LIV had stopped reporting its ratings because growth had plateaued.

LIV’s opening rounds are broadcast on the CW App, which does not get reported, but on the weekend Nielsen rules all, and can measure LIV against other competing entities. But, as with all TV ratings, particularly live sports ratings, there is almost always further context worth applying. (For instance, Nick Dunlap’s shocking victory at The AmEx proved to be a ratings hit, but it also came during a weekend where winter storms ravaged most of the country, keeping plenty of people indoors.) Plenty of that context was spilled in the words above. LIV didn’t have to battle against professional football. At least, not any game that mattered. The PGA Tour’s Saturday round was re-broadcast on Sunday on CBS, with constant reminders that the golf being shown was not live, earning more than 1.2 million viewers in the process. (Golf fans are creatures of habit.)

If we are looking for the most direct comparison between the two, Saturday’s round from the PGA Tour was viewed by 1.931 million people, according to Nielsen, approximately 11 times LIV’s Saturday round. In other words, the battle for viewership between the two isn’t exactly close. But LIV did enjoy having the arena all to itself on Sunday, a luxury it has never been afforded before, the value of which could bring more viewers back to its second weekend, which is rapidly approaching. 

LIV has positioned itself in Las Vegas this week, where the Super Bowl is also being held. It has pushed up its tournament by a day so as to not try and compete with the biggest event in American sports, and will begin its final round at 9:35 a.m. local time, finishing around 4 p.m. ET. The PGA Tour, meanwhile, aims to finish its tournament Sunday afternoon around the same time.

How will golf fans vote this week, with the option to watch final-round play on consecutive days? We’ll just have to wait and see what Nielsen reports a week from now. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.