'The Players will become the forefront of the PGA Tour season'
Jared Rice has overseen some significant changes to the way The Players Championship is staged since taking over as executive director of the PGA Tour’s flagship event in December 2016.
Rice sat down with Jack Martin to find out what impact these changes have had…
Eighteen months in, how have you enjoyed the job so far and what has been your philosophy?
I’m enjoying it immensely. The team we have here are incredible and determined to deliver The Players with excellence. There are not only 15 or so staff directly involved with the tournament, but 500 PGA Tour colleagues who work on campus.
In terms of philosophy, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘fans first’. The Players is the ultimate fan experience and that has been delivered, working with all our partners, by improving every sector of the tournament. From players to technology to hospitality.
Marketing is clearly one of the reasons why The Players has established itself as the flagship event on the PGA Tour. Last year, that dedication to promotion resulted in the tournament being broadcasted across Times Square in New York. How did that come about? And will we see it again this year?
We will see it again this year for sure. It came about by our partnership with Morgan Stanley and is a great illustration of our tournaments wide appeal, and how we continue to try new ways of marketing the brand, which is hugely important to us.
Ultimately, we were attracted by the idea of 450,000 people walking by 1585 Broadway, which is the headquarters of Morgan Stanley, and being able to view and watch our tournament. It was a no-brainer.
Last year, one other significant piece of innovation to The Players was the introduction of Virtual Reality to the 17th hole. How well did that work and did it show how important modern technology is to The Players and its future?
First of all, I’d like to say the tournament is known for innovation. We were the first purpose-built golf course with the fan in mind. We were first in the use of electronic and LED scoreboards. So, as you can see we deliver the fan focused amenities first a lot of the time.
The VR, last year, was another example of our continuous modernisation. It went really well. The idea of having four different camera placements in the water on 17th, in order to deliver to fans globally, the opportunity to experience feeling like you’re standing on the 17th tee even though you are hundreds or thousands of miles away, speaks volumes for our forward thinking.
The Players will move to a March slot from 2019. How does Rice think this will affect the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament? Find out on the next page…