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What Do Historical Ratings Mean for Tiger’s Masters Return

2 minute read | March 2010

Tiger Woods announced today that he will return to the PGA Tour for golf’s signature event – The Masters. That’s surely music to the ears of ESPN and CBS, the two networks providing live coverage for this year’s tournament. With so much anticipation for Tiger’s return to golf, many are speculating about just how high Masters ratings will be. And while Nielsen does not project future ratings, there are some past indicators that could make this year’s Masters a record-breaking event.

Nielsen looked at TV ratings for the final rounds of golf’s four major tournaments since 1977 and found that the top ten telecasts were all from the Masters. The top-rated telecast was the tournament’s final round in 1997. An estimated 14.1% of all TV households tuned in to watch Tiger win his first Masters that year. And when Tiger sealed his victory at the 2001 Masters, the final round went into the books as the second highest rated golf telecast since at least 1977 with a 13.0% household rating.

Top 10 Major Golf  Final Round Telecasts

(Since 1977)

Rank Program Network Household Rating (%) Winner
1 Masters 1997 CBS 14.1 Woods
2 Masters 2001 CBS 13.0 Woods
3 Masters 1981 CBS 10.6 Watson
4 Masters 1990 CBS 10.5 Faldo*
5 Masters 1998 CBS 10.2 O’Meara
6 Masters 1999 CBS 10.1 Olazabal
7 Masters 2000 CBS 10.0 Singh
8 Masters 1987 CBS 9.9 Mize*
9 Masters 1989 CBS 9.9 Faldo*
10 Masters 2005 CBS 9.8 Woods
Source: The Nielsen Company

*indicates playoff

Last year, Nielsen found that ratings for tournaments missed by Tiger were down by almost one half. So far this year, Tiger’s absence from the PGA Tour has not had such a dramatic effect. Ratings for final round coverage of PGA tournaments are down just 11% season-to-date compared to the same period last year.

Having Tiger in the tournament is one thing, but when Tiger is in contention, it adds significantly more viewer interest. Last year, Nielsen found that ratings for the Masters’ final round are 20% lower when Tiger does not go on to win.

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