Is it too much to ask that the PGA Tour have some pride and confidence in their product?

At this year’s edition of Kapalua, viewers may have noticed the broadcast times are earlier than we’ve seen over the past decade or so, a decade that’s featured some great finishes around 10 p.m. on the East Coast. This has disrupted one of the great traditions in golf: kicking off the new year with prime time coverage at the most beautiful course the PGA Tour visits.

Why was this decision made? The short answer is the PGA Tour’s fear of going up against the NFL. NBC, the rights holder for the Kapalua tournament as well as Sunday Night Football, created a scenario where the PGA Tour couldn’t place the finish of their tournament on network TV. This pileup was exacerbated when the NFL went to an 18-week schedule last year. So the PGA Tour contorted themselves all week in order to get off the air earlier, including sending threesomes off split tees for the weekend.

The PGA Tour’s fear of going up against the NFL might be rooted in data and analytics, but that data doesn’t factor in the message it sends to fans. This strategy effectively tells the world that the NFL’s product is superior. Football remains king in America, sure, but this is Week 18, when the league doesn’t have a full slate of games and when half of the NFL’s fans are checked out with their team eliminated from playoff contention. It isn’t Week 1’s peak football interest, interest that drove the PGA Tour to completely reformat the golf calendar in order to avoid running the FedEx Cup Playoffs against that behemoth of a sports weekend.

The only way the PGA Tour’s dying product will ever improve is if its officials and leaders actually believe in it, and prioritize that belief over appeasing membership. When you avoid going against another sport at all costs, you signal to your fans and other constituents that you are, in fact, not as good. How can you ask viewers for their time and attention (or sponsors for money) when you’re admitting you have an inferior product?

The message to Tour HQ should be clear: stop worrying about what other sports and leagues are doing, and start worrying about putting the best version of your own product out to the public. Is it too much to ask the PGA Tour to focus on how to best produce a stellar prime time season-opener that diehard fans of professional golf are salivating to watch? Sadly, this year, it was too much. Instead they went with a channel-hopping, early-evening final round finish, skipping one of their best annual opportunities to produce a truly great show. For a league so determined to avoid football, the PGA Tour sure does a lot of punting.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.