April saw the announcement that Tiger Woods would play a series of matches exclusive to GolfTV, the international Discovery/PGA Tour subscription service partnership, but there weren’t a lot of further details available at that time. Now, the first match has been announced. It will be “The Challenge: Japan Skins,” featuring Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Hideki Matsuyama.
Discovery Golf is producing this event in partnership with Excel Sports Management, and the clash will take place at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan in October ahead of the PGA Tour Zozo Championship at that club (the first-ever PGA Tour event in Japan). It will be aired live on GolfTV internationally and simulcast live on Golf Channel in the U.S., with the broadcast starting at midnight Eastern Time on Oct. 21 (1 p.m. on Oct. 21 in Japan). The broadcast will be produced in both English and Japanese, and the event will be “covered by a stellar lineup of leading presenters, commentators and on-course reporters.”
Interestingly enough, international fans can watch this live and on demand for free on GolfTV (with registration), as long as they don’t live in the UK and Ireland. There, fans will be required to subscribe “due to existing rights agreements,” with those passes starting at £4.99 a month. And U.S. fans will need to have a cable or satellite subscription that includes Golf Channel to watch this. But a lot of international fans will be able to watch this without actually paying for a GolfTV subscription, and that should help promote awareness of GolfTV and what it has to offer. Here’s more from Discovery’s release:
Alex Kaplan, President and General Manager of Discovery Golf, commented: “The Challenge: Japan Skins is a unique experience that no golf fan will want to miss and will be an exciting way to begin ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP week. GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR is growing to become the one-stop-shop for all the best in golf, and The Challenge is another significant step in that direction.
“To be able to bring many of golf’s biggest names to GOLFTV screens for our customers is hugely exciting for everyone involved. On October 21, fans will be able to see a totally new competition join the golf calendar, supporting some fantastic charities and showcasing the very best golf has to offer in the most fun, exhilarating and unpredictable way.”
Looking ahead to the event, Woods said: “After discussing The Challenge with Discovery and GOLFTV, I wanted to be a part of it. I haven’t been back to Japan since 2006 and the golf fans there are some of the best in the world. It’s a unique format and a top field with Rory, Jason and Hideki. I can’t wait to play against them on a global stage.
…McIlroy commented: “There are so many fun elements to The Challenge that will have me wanting to take home that title – playing with Hideki on his home turf; Tiger coming back to Japan with a Green Jacket—the motivation is certainly there for me, and I’m a huge fan of the skins format. I love the way it rewards attacking play and think it suits my game quite well. Any time I can go directly at pins to try and make birdies and eagles, I think it puts me at an advantage.
“The other fun thing about skins is how you find yourself rooting for the other guys if you’re not in a position to win the hole. You’re hoping they can tie with someone else so you can play for that skin on the next hole. With the skins format, you’re always in it until the end.”
The specific skins format here is interesting too, as the money on the line will increase as the event goes on. The prizes are $10,000 per skin for holes 1-6, $15,000 per skin for holes 7-12, $20,000 per skin for holes 13-17 and $100,000 for the “super skin” on hole 18. So even if one golfer dominates the early holes, another one could wind up winning more money on the day. That seems useful for an event like this with a small field, as it should help keep viewers interested even if it’s lopsided early.
It’s worth noting that there’s a lot of emphasis here on this being “the first in a series of annual Challenge events that are set to become a thrilling addition to the global golf calendar.” As discussed in April, Woods has agreed to a series of matches exclusively on GolfTV, with most of those to take place internationally. So there’s likely to be a lot more of this going forward. And that’s perhaps especially true if this one is well-received.