Examining Generative AI: Impact on Society / Fans Benefit as Sports World Adopts AI, but Other Risks Remain

Tiger woods hits from the bunker on the 15th hole during final round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14 in Augusta, Ga.

Expectations are high that generative AI will improve convenience in many ways, but confusion caused by the negative impact of this technology is also spreading. This is the fifth and final installment of a series which explores issues and potential countermeasures in the fields of education, government, business, medicine and sports.


It was the final day of the Masters in April, and Tiger Woods had just chipped his third shot onto the green of the par-5 eighth hole.

On the official tournament app, a graphic appears saying that historically, he now has a 87.5% chance of making par and 6.25% chance of a birdie from where his ball had just landed. The data was provided by a system using generative artificial intelligence developed by U.S. tech giant IBM Corp.

The Masters, held annually in Augusta, Ga., is the most prestigious tournament in golf. Brimming with tradition, the event bans smartphones on the grounds, and the spectators keep track of the competition on manually operated leaderboards.

The analog atmosphere at the venue is in stark contrast to the digital world available for those unable to be in Augusta. They have access to the generative AI system introduced last year.

Not only can the system make predictions on every shot of every player based on past performance, it also provides video highlights with AI-generated commentary. It has learned golf lingo, enabling it to automatically narrate shots and putts. On top of that, a Spanish-language version was launched this year.

“It is really cool to see the stats and ways that AI is being brought into everyday life and sports,” said Matthew Ryan, a 33-year-old software salesman from South Carolina who said he uses the free official app while on breaks.

A spokesperson for IBM, which has been a longtime corporate partner of the Masters, lauded the app as it pursues new ways to appeal to a new generation tethered to its digital devices.

“IBM and the Masters have worked side by side for more than 25 years to co-create new digital fan experiences that bring the excitement of the Masters tournament to more fans across the globe,” the spokesman said.

“Harnessing the power of generative AI can allow sporting events like the Masters to enhance their fans’ digital experience in ways that drive higher levels of engagement and grow their global audience.”

In addition to creating new ways to make sporting events more enjoyable for fans, AI technology has begun to be used by teams looking for an edge.

Soccer club Sevilla FC of Spain’s top-division La Liga and IBM have jointly developed a system called Scout Advisor.

The system uses AI to summarize about 200,000 reports compiled by the club’s scouting team on players from leagues around the world. It puts together a list of players who best meet the club’s needs taking into consideration position, age and other factors.

Subhead: Concerns over misuse

There are also concerns that AI technology could be misused, given the huge influence that the greatest athletes in the world can have.

Last year, a German magazine published a fake interview with Michael Schumacher, the legendary former Formula One driver who has not been seen in public since suffering a severe head injury in a skiing accident.

The magazine cover blared the headline “Das erste Interview” (the first interview) in massive type, but every comment attributed to Schumacher about his health and family was AI-generated, which was only revealed in the second half of the story.

The publisher acknowledged the deception and apologized to the Schumacher family, and issued a statement that “this tasteless and misleading article should never have appeared.” The editor-in-chief was fired.

In other incident, Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi was shown in a fake video speaking in English at a press conference, which is not his native language.

Vasant Dhar, a professor at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and an expert on the relationship between sports and AI, says the images and other rights of athletes need to be better protected.

“This is something where we need new laws and regulations because they don’t exist at the moment,” he said.

The professor added that in the sports world, increased data and analytical power could mean the difference between victory and defeat. “I see sports as being a very, very, rich area for AI, both generative AI and traditional AI,” he said.