TV blog: Tiger Who? British Open ratings hit post-2009 peak

Jordan Spieth's best shot, hole and quote from the British Open Steve Flynn/USA TODAY Sports

TV blog: Tiger Who? British Open ratings hit post-2009 peak

PGA Tour

TV blog: Tiger Who? British Open ratings hit post-2009 peak

This week marks four years since Tiger Woods last won a stroke-play event on the PGA Tour, at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods won by eight strokes, and the TV ratings were almost as lopsided. The final round pulled a 3.2 rating, up 146 percent from the previous year. (Each rating point equates to 1,184,000 TV homes.)

Woods won five times in 2013, and his impact on viewership was evident throughout:

  • The final round of his February 2013 victory at Torrey Pines drew a 3.7, 85 percent higher than 2012, when he didn’t play.
    The next month, he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and final-round ratings rose 44 percent (4.4).
  • The final round of his May victory at The Players Championship drew a 5.7, 68 percent higher than 2012, when Woods finished T-40. When Woods did not play the next year, ratings dropped 65 percent.
  • The last time Woods played four rounds was in December at the Hero World Challenge, where the final-round rating was 57 percent higher than 2015, when he didn’t play.

Woods is injured and hasn’t played since Feb. 2, and his absence has been reflected in generally weak 2017 PGA Tour ratings.

So it was noteworthy that NBC’s final-round coverage of Jordan Spieth’s British Open victory pulled the highest number (3.2) since 2009, when it was on ABC.

That was a tick above the 3.1 for the previous month’s U.S. Open on Fox – the first time since at least 1980 that the British has topped the U.S. Open. A month earlier, Spieth’s playoff victory at Hartford drew the highest number (2.3) for that tournament in 14 years.

But while Woods was ratings gold – and will be again if he is healthy enough to resume his career – Spieth’s impact is mixed. In his 10 Tour victories before the British Open, final-round ratings were up seven times, down twice and flat for his 2016 Dean & DeLuca Invitational victory, according to research by SportsMediaWatch.com.

Those are nice numbers, but the broader trend only underscores what a transformational figure Woods was for the Tour, and how much he is missed by the networks.

Elsewhere on the media landscape:

Give-and-take worth a listen

Great job by Golf Channel and CBS capturing audio of Kevin Chappell on the second hole Sunday as he was trying to punch back into the fairway.

We heard Chappell’s caddie ask: “How much easier would it be to hit it there (pointing toward the green) or there (pointing sideways)?”

Chappell: “Not much.”

Caddie: “If you can advance 25 yards right here (toward the green), we can still have a shot at hitting the green.”

Chappell took the more aggressive line, and his abbreviated swing brought this response from Golf Channel’s Curt Byrum: “I think he’s just going to try to hit a hook around that tree up there in front of him and get it in the fairway. I don’t think he’s trying to get it all the way to the green. (Chappell swings.) No. Oh, my God.”

Then we heard Chappell say, “That was a whiff.”

Byrum: “Yuk. Yeah, there’s no question he made an attempt at that ball. He saw afterward that was a whiff. Yuk.”

Clichés continue to disappoint

Recently I wrote about clichés that I’d like to see exiled to golf oblivion. One I didn’t include, but could have, is, “It’s tough to follow up a great round with another great round.” I bring that up because I think CBS’ Peter Kostis got it right when he addressed the subject during the third round of the RBC Canadian Open.

“We always talk about how difficult it is to follow up a really low score with another reasonably low score,” Kostis said. “But I’ve always thought the anomaly is shooting the 63 in the first place. They just don’t come around that often. . . We shouldn’t rag on guys for not being able to follow up a 63 with a 64.”

Speaking of clichés, a friend posed this question: At what point does “There’s still a lot of golf to be played” transition to “He’s running out of holes”?

(Note: This story appeared in the July 31, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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