PGA Championship TV ratings benefit from Scottie Scheffler bump

Scottie Scheffler being booked on suspicion of second-degree assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic brought eyeballs and a spike in viewership to the broadcast of the 106th PGA Championship.

CBS reported an 11-percent viewership increase for the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club. CBS averaged just under 5 million viewers, up from 4.5 million last year when Brooks Koepka won by two shots at Oak Hill. (It’s still the second-lowest rating in the last five years.)

Scheffler, the world No. 1 and reigning Masters champion, was detained early Friday morning before his second-round tee time after trying to drive into the entrance of Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The assault charge is a felony; the others are misdemeanors.

News of Scheffler’s arrest went viral and included firsthand reporting by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, who witnessed Scheffler attempt to enter the club and a police officer attach himself to the vehicle.

ESPN’s live telecast of the second round of the PGA Championship on May 17 averaged 1.6 million viewers, an increase of 18 percent in audience compared to the second-round coverage in 2023.

Friday’s telecast, which ran from noon until 8 p.m. ET, peaked at 2 million viewers during the 6-6:15 p.m. quarter hour. Last year’s second-round telecast averaged 1.369 million viewers.

Also on Friday, the ESPN BET at the PGA Championship alternate telecast on ESPN2 averaged 323,000 viewers between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., up from 164,000 average viewers during the first round Thursday.

The PGA Championship with No Laying Up alternate telecast that aired on ESPN2 from 1-3 p.m. averaged 155,000 viewers, up from 89,000 average viewers Thursday.

TV ratings of PGA Tour events have been down significantly for the year. The Masters, which Scheffler captured by four strokes, was down 20 percent to an average of 9.59 million viewers. The Tour has been plagued by bad weather, such as the cancellation of the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and by several lesser-known winners (Matthieu Pavon, Jake Knapp). Another pressing concern: Tour-LIV fatigue.

Perhaps all CBS needed was a photo finish between Xander Schauffele, the player formerly wearing the label of best player never to win a major, and LIV showman Bryson DeChambeau. Either that, or more likely the world No. 1 being photographed in an orange jumpsuit for his mug shot before shooting 66 gave golf a bump. Regardless, it’s a positive for the networks, who have been taking it on the chin this season.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek