After subpar ratings for the Masters, televised golf is primed for a comeback next month at an exhibition featuring the game's top star
Most TV sports recently have generated average or poor ratings.
The recent final round of the Masters drew the lowest ratings for CBS since 1957, the network’s second year of its 65-year run in broadcasting from Augusta National. It was an unkind sendoff for retiring producer Lance Barrow.
The Masters, which was postponed from April until November because of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew a 3.4 rating and attracted 5.59 million viewers for Sunday’s final round, during which Dustin Johnson swept to a five-stroke victory. It was a 51-percent drop in ratings compared with Tiger Woods’ 2019 triumph.
The numbers reaffirm that familiar adage in golf: If Woods is in contention, then the public will watch.
Of course, the pandemic has changed everything in our lives, but has it affected Woods’ drawing power? We are going to find out next month when Woods and his 11-year-old son, Charlie, compete in the PNC Championship, formerly known as the Father-Son Challenge, in Orlando, Fla.
It will be the first time that the Woodses will compete together. If the excitement of a young Charlie Woods hitting shots on the practice range earlier this year is any indication – more than 1.6 million views on Twitter – then the viewership on Golf Channel and its parent NBC for the Dec. 19-20 exhibition should be off the charts.
That range excursion was in January, just before Woods’ son turned 11. In the months since then, Charlie reportedly has been tearing up the junior-golf scene. He posted a five-shot victory in a U.S. Kids event before he won the 9-11 age division by three strokes at the PGA South Florida Section tournament in August.
“We are excited Charlie is coming and bringing his dad,” Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports, said via a text message to Morning Read.
Now the speculation starts. Team Woods will be playing against some heady competition that includes defending champion Bernhard Langer and his son Jason, but that’s hardly the point.
Do we really care whether the Woods pairing wins or loses in the two-day, 36-hole scramble involving 20 teams? Of course, it would be something if they were to win, but the event provides an opportunity to see Tiger Woods in a different situation: as a father and mentor.
Will we learn more about Woods than what we knew from his performance on the PGA Tour in 2020, when he competed in only seven tournaments since the season restart in June, with no result better than the recent T-38 at the Masters? Woods has amassed a record-tying 82 PGA Tour victories, including 15 major championships, while wearing figurative blinders during his career. How much will he change his focus for this event?
For his son, it will be a competitive baptism of sorts, despite the hit-and-giggle tradition of the event. Golf fans will get a closeup of the prodigy. As a pre-teen, he is certain to feel immense pressure to play well with his father as a partner in such a highly visible setting, even though spectators will not be permitted at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando Grande Lakes because of the pandemic.
It also will be interesting to see the youngster’s swing. Many golf journalists have tracked the elder Woods for nearly three decades in an extraordinary career. What similarities in golf, if any, might the son possess?
I’ve long maintained that Tiger Woods has changed over time and that his children are extremely special to him, but we have seen only limited interaction with the father and his family to make much of an assessment.
Now, with golf fans watching in the days before Christmas, the Woodses likely will be the stars of the show, win or lose.
Maybe that’s too much pressure and too many expectations, but for Tiger Woods’ son, in an era of so many young players winning on the PGA and European tours, big expectations will follow him should he pursue the game seriously.
And as for those anticipated robust TV ratings? When Tiger Woods, then 20, defeated Steve Scott on the 38th hole in the 1996 U.S. Amateur final at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, the TV ratings beat those of the PGA Tour event that week at Firestone.
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