Professional golf is receiving the Drive To Survive treatment, as Netflix strikes a deal with the PGA Tour for an episodic documentary series, complete with “unprecedented behind-the-scenes access” and featuring the world’s best golfers as they embark upon the 2021-22 season.
According to Golf, the streaming giant has engaged some battle-tested collaborators for the job, including Vox Media (Explained), Rickie Fowler’s own Main Event Productions (Basketball Or Nothing), as well as Box To Box Films – the media company behind Formula 1: Drive To Survive. Given the quality of entertainment all parties involved have churned out in the past – not to mention the global following pro golf retains – it seems as though Netflix is once again on track to capture lightning in a bottle.
Sources reveal cameras quietly began rolling for the upcoming Netflix PGA Tour documentary series in early December of 2021, parallel to a small 20-player invitation in the Bahamas known as the Hero World Challenge (where Tiger Woods himself made his long-awaited return after a near-fatal car accident):
“More than a half-dozen pros sat for their first interviews that week. Others consulted their agents, spoke with show producers and considered and reconsidered their participation in a show that hopes to introduce professional golf to an entirely new audience.”
When this article was initially published back in September 2021, it was unclear who we’d see on the small screen. All we knew was the player component would be limited to major champions, Ryder Cuppers, and Top 20 ranked names.
Golf Digest indicated Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, and Cameron Champ were “highly interested”; in addition to the fact a Vox Media executive hit Atlanta this week to “woo” the likes of Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau. Of course, talent won’t be compensated with cash for their participation, but instead benefit from the added exposure.
Today, we can confirm a total of 22 names committed to being in the star-studded cast – plus the world’s #1 ranked amateur, Keita Nakajima. Here they are in alphabetical order:
- Abraham Ancer
- Daniel Berger
- Cameron Champ
- Joel Dahmen
- Tony Finau
- Matthew Fitzpatrick
- Tommy Fleetwood
- Rickie Fowler
- Sergio Garcia
- Harry Higgs
- Max Homa
- Viktor Hovland
- Dustin Johnson
- Brooks Koepka
- Collin Morikawa
- Kevin Na
- Mito Pereira
- Ian Poulter
- Xander Schauffele
- Jordan Spieth
- Justin Thomas
- Bubba Watson
While certain headlining names such as Woods, DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy are obviously missing from the list above (as well as every Aussie pro), that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be featured in the show. It simply means they’ve opted out of active participation.
“It’s not like golf has a union that negotiates on behalf of players,” reveals one unnamed source.
“So you go through the process of getting buy-in from each player and their team individually. That takes time.”
While the actual sports themselves could not be more different, a Netflix documentary series focused on the PGA Tour a la Drive To Survive makes a whole lot of sense. As Golf Digest points out, there are remarkable similarities between Formula 1 and golfing ecosystem, right down to the multi-person support team behind individuals.
And similar to Formula 1 prior to Drive To Survive, the PGA Tour, Tour players, as well as the associated management teams are notoriously secretive of what goes on beyond the green. Over the course of three seasons – now fast-approaching Drive To Survive season 4 – motorsport fans were afforded a fascinating look at what really goes on, tearing down the velvet curtains, which only served to grow its fandom.
Filming will continue through to the end of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, wrapping up with the Tour Championship towards the end of August. Assuming the PGA Tour docuseries mirrors the rollout model utilised by Drive To Survive, building hype for the following season, we should be earmarking 2023 for its release date.
Keep an eye out here for updates.