Seeing Tiger back on top provoked emotions that I was not quite ready to handle. There was the roar of accomplishment after sinking the putt and sealing his fifth Masters victory on Sunday at Augusta National. Then there was the victory ceremony where Tiger joyously proclaimed, “it fits”, after putting on yet another green jacket. On Sunday, it all went as it should have. And Tiger was right, it did fit, all of it.
Golf is hardly the same game without Tiger in the hunt. Whether it be his iconic Sunday red, or his fierce intensity matched by few; there is something so transcendent about the way he glues eyeballs to the TV screen.
There was a time not long ago when many had written him off. There was the car accident. There were the affairs. There were the back injuries. In 2017, he had become so insignificant in the golf world that he dropped out of the top 1000 in the golf ranks. He continued to sink deeper and deeper into obscurity — but sinking deeper and deeper into obscurity only promised that the storybook ending would be that much sweeter. On Sunday at the Masters, it all culminated in a victory for the golf world to embrace.
It is hard to quantify how much Tiger means to the game of golf, but in this post I’ll try to do just that. There’s no better place to start than to analyze his overall impact on viewership and ratings.
Tiger Woods has always been a huge draw when it comes to golf viewership. He is able to attract the casual fan like no one else, and because of this, golf is at its best when Tiger is good. Tiger Wood’s first Masters victory in 1997 saw a 14.1 Sunday rating (44 million total viewers) — good for the highest Sunday rating in event history. Tiger’s second Masters victory produced the second highest Sunday rating in event history, generating a 13.3 rating. Both of these events saw ratings that were almost 50% higher than the long-term event average.
The “Tiger Effect” came back in full force when Tiger returned to the top of the leaderboards. Over the span of the three major tournaments (The Masters, The British Open, PGA Championship) where Tiger was in contention last summer, the ratings averaged out to a 40% final round bump when compared to final rounds when Tiger wasn’t in contention. When Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open last summer, the final round saw its’ third lowest rated final round of all time.
That brings us to last Sunday, when Tiger won the Masters in dramatic fashion. The final round of the 2019 Masters was the “highest-rated morning golf broadcast” in 34 years, featuring an overnight rating of 7.7 and an average viewership of 10.8 million (with viewership peaking at 18 million around 1:30 pm CT). There’s no telling what those numbers would’ve been had bad weather not pushed the final round-up to an early start time. In fact, there were so many people who wanted to re-watch Tiger win that the “encore presentation” of the final round featured a rating of 3.4, which was the third-highest rated golf broadcast on any network this year, behind only the live third round and live final round of The Masters.
Merchandise and Finance
Even more telling of Tiger’s overall prominence towards golf is how he also impacts the merchandise sales for the sport. The PGA Tour Superstore saw a 68% boost in online sales last Saturday and a 66% boost on Sunday. On top of that, GolfTown — Canada’s top golf store — stated that orders for Tiger’s classic red turtleneck crashed its website over the weekend.
The financial side of golf also saw a big uptick, as many stocks connected to golf grew when they opened on Monday. Both Callaway and Acushnet gained close to 1.5%, while Nike gained .7%. Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money, went as far as to say, “Acushnet Holdings is the best pure play in the industry”. With industries like TopGolf introducing golf to a younger demographic, and Tiger seeing a resurgence, a full on golf renaissance wouldn’t be too far fetched at this point.
The Impact that Numbers Can’t Measure
There are plenty of numbers to prove Tiger Woods transcends golf as a sport, but its the qualitative value he has for the sport that is most important. Soccer has Cristiano Ronaldo. Basketball has Lebron James. Baseball has Mike Trout. These are all athletes that younger generations look up to and want to emulate. That is what Tiger Woods is to golf, and when Tiger was at rock bottom, golf never found the name that all casual fans flocked to. Now that Tiger is back on top, golf once again has a top star, and above all else, is prominent to those who don’t consider themselves hardcore golf fans.
I’m not afraid to admit that since Tiger has begun his rise back to the top, I have taken much more of a liking to the sport. I find myself watching tournaments on the weekend; I consider major tournaments “must watch television”. During the baseball offseason, spending a day at the golf course is one of my favorite things to do — even if I can’t drive a ball straight for the life of me. Golf is fun, and that may not have been something I truly realized if it weren’t for Tiger. I presume this to be the case for many others that are my age or younger too.
Tiger’s career trajectory is one of a Hollywood script. There are very few athletes who have experienced rock bottom and been able to find their way back to the top like Tiger has. He has experienced the worst of the human experience, and that is why everyone wants to see him succeed so badly. At the heart of the human experience lies the will to root for someones redemption. Tiger Woods is getting a second chance. Tiger Woods has gotten his redemption. Tiger is back — he’s the savior we all deserve — and he’s coming for ALL of the major victories.