Tiger Woods is still recovering from back spasms that ailed him a few weeks ago, making chances of him attending the Masters very slim. According to analysts though, his absence won’t hurt the ratings as much as you might expect.
When Tiger was on top of the world rankings, dominating the field, his presence alone was enough to get viewers to tune in. Back in 2014, when the four-time Masters champ missed the event for the first time, ratings took a major hit. With Tiger out of the golfing limelight for quite some time now, the Masters won’t take the blow it once did.
“Everybody knows the course. It’s just so gorgeous and there’s so many famous holes there that people can’t wait to see.”
“So as long as it’s competitive and you’ve got a couple of big-name players in there on the weekend I think they are going to get solid ratings.”
Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco.
Fans have grown accustomed to Tiger missing majors, and have moved their attention to the key players right now like Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. There are just so many great professionals in the field right now, that the appeal that Tiger Woods once had as a stand alone player, doesn’t really apply anymore.
When Woods, as world number one, missed the 2014 Masters while recovering from back surgery, ratings for CBS’s weekend coverage was 8.6 million viewers, the lowest since 1993 when 7.9 million viewers in the United States tuned in before Woods burst onto the scene.
Now, Woods has missed the last four majors, and has teetered back and forth between attending and withdrawing from tournaments this season. Where it once used to shock fans to see him missing from the roster, the fear is no longer there. Of course fans still want to see him, and if he was playing, it would be a big deal, but golfers are going to watch the Masters this year whether or not he plays, because the latter is most likely. Fans have been disappointed enough this year that expectations for Tiger are very low.
Dorfman explained that if Tiger does end up playing, that would be a major spike for ratings. “People are maybe not expecting him to win anymore but there is still an excitement and hope that he is going to do well on one side. One the other side it’s ‘gee let’s watch and see what happened to this guy.’ There’s a curiosity about how far he’s fallen off,” he said.
Tiger Woods made him “comeback” after 17 months of absence at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he missed the cut. He then shot a 77 in Dubai and promptly withdrew due to back spasms. Some thought that if he played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, there would be a chance that he would make an appearance at the Masters, but sadly he missed that event as well. He has not set a date for return, possibly to instill hope that he’ll attend his first major since back surgery, but it’s very unlikely.
Tiger’s Injury Timeline
The thing about Augusta, is that it provides golf fans with a tradition and beauty that they don’t get at any other course. There’s just something about the Masters that truly sets it apart from every other tournament.
“We’re dealing with a unique property, tradition unlike any other. And while 10 years ago our audience would be surprised if Tiger was not playing I think given his history over the last year and a half that the audience would be pleasantly surprised if he does play.”
“The young professionals who have collectively taken Tiger’s place – Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, among others – certainly have a following and they will bring a substantial audience to Augusta whether or not Tiger plays.”
Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson
The question is, is Tiger ready to take on a major championship, especially one on just a large scale like the Masters? All signs are pointing to no. Tiger is someone who has always had the mindset of going in to a tournament thinking he can and will win. If he shows up and misses the cut, that would do more harm to his ego than any other loss, and would potentially have him running from the game forever.
I don’t think he wants to stop playing golf just yet, so waiting is his best bet. The Masters will do well with or without him, it’s Tiger Woods whose fate lies in the hands of the Masters.