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Tiger, Rory and JT, Oh My! Trio Among Attractions In ESPN+’s Genesis Invitational Coverage This Week

Woods returns to compete at a PGA Tour event for the first time in more than two years, with rivals McIlroy and Thomas sharing the spotlight; learn how Featured and Marquee groups on PGA Tour Live on ESPN+ are determined

When Tiger Woods makes his first appearance at a PGA TOUR event in more than two years at The Genesis Invitational this week in Los Angeles, much of his first two rounds will be covered live and exclusively on PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+. In addition, Woods will play alongside Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas on Thursday and Friday in perhaps the most amazing Featured and Marquee groups ever on ESPN+.

Front Row asked Mike Christofer, Senior Director, ESPN Programming & Acquisitions, and John Suchenski, Director, ESPN Programming & Acquisitions, about what the return of Woods means for golf on ESPN+ and ESPN. Learn how they work with the PGA TOUR to program more than 4,300 hours of live coverage across four separate streams at 35 events on PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ each year.

How excited were you when news broke that Tiger would be in this week’s field?
Suchenski: This is the first time we will have Tiger at a PGA TOUR event since we started streaming PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ last year, so needless to say, we are extremely excited. Having him appear this early in the season will hopefully create a halo effect for the next several TOUR events and lead into our coverage of the Masters and PGA Championship this spring.
Christofer: There is no bigger name in golf, and potentially all of sports, than Tiger Woods. Having him at the Genesis builds on momentum the TOUR is already creating, following the top-tier leaderboard we just had at the WM Phoenix Open, all the great players in the field this week at The Riviera Country Club, and the launch of the new “Full Swing” series on Netflix. Tiger’s presence just makes this week a true must-watch for golf fans and sports fans in general.

What goes into selecting the Marquee and Featured groups each week for PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+?
Christofer: The TOUR comes to us on Tuesdays with the pairings for that week’s event, and we work in concert with TOUR production to select the Marquee and Featured groups for Thursday and Friday. It’s always a bit of a balancing act.

We try to identify the groups that showcase the biggest names and personalities, combined with an eye toward the future of the game. McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, and JT are mainstays in our Marquee and Featured groups. They’re the best players in the world, but they’re also outspoken in ways that engage fans, media, and each other. We mix those established top players with some of golf’s emerging stars, like Will Zalatoris or Tom Kim.

Suchenski: Also, after the cut on Friday, there is an additional layer of complexity every Saturday and Sunday because we’re at the mercy of the second and third-round results and subsequent tee times. Sometimes the players we want to showcase have tee times that require us to think creatively in order to fit them into our coverage on the weekend. It’s definitely a puzzle at times, but the TOUR has been – and continues to be – a great partner, making sure we maximize our PGA TOUR LIVE coverage on ESPN+ throughout the 35-week schedule.

How do you select the Featured Holes?
Christofer: The Featured Holes are easier to program because they’re selected well in advance, and we usually cover four par 3s because those holes can be done with less resources.

Par-3 holes don’t require a fairway camera, and we can place an unmanned camera on the tee box. But when we get to a course with a truly special hole that isn’t a par 3, like the drivable par-4 10th at Riviera this week, we move cameras and talent to cover those par-4s for fans.

Suchenski: We also make it a point to prioritize iconic holes at certain events, like the 16th at TPC Scottsdale last week and the famous 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass for THE PLAYERS Championship in March. We know fans love to watch those holes, sometimes even more than Marquee and Featured groups, so we work with the TOUR production team to make sure we show every single shot on those holes, with coverage of other holes mixed in.

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