Love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion about Tiger Woods, but it appears that the world’s number one player still drives the success of professional golf. Especially here at home. Prior to 2014, the two previous Masters were able to sustain some interest due to compelling playoffs, but this year’s Masters was a dud. Although it had brought some very interesting storylines to the Sunday finale, it was unable to provide an exciting finish.
Even though Tiger Woods was not involved in the two previous years playoffs, he was in the field, and was on the premises for the competition. He finished in a tie for fourth place in 2013, but his debacle at the 15th hole on Friday was must-see TV. This year, his absence, and the questionable health of Phil Mickelson left a lot to be desired during the tournament.
The presence of Tiger Woods at any golf tournament during the year drives the sport, especially here in the US. Hard core golf fans are going to watch no matter who is in the field, or who is leading the tournament. Tiger brings the casual golf fan to the television who might otherwise be spending a beautiful day outside, or watching another sport.
Golf.com provided a story on Monday detailing the television numbers for the Masters this year, a year when Tiger wasn’t even on the property. It shows us that television garnered only a 7.8 share for the Sunday finale’. This was down 24% over last year’s numbers.
The ratings were down 24 percent from last year’s Masters finale, in which Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff, according to Sports Business Daily (subscription required). That Masters had a 10.2 rating. In fact, Sunday’s Masters rating was the lowest final-round rating since Phil Mickelson’s 2004 win, which garnered a 7.2 rating. Interestingly, the highest rating in the last 10 years was for Mickelson’s win in 2012, which got a 12.0 rating. Woods’ last win in 2005 got a 10.3 rating.
The early conversation at the Masters was centered around Tiger’s absence, and his physical problems that included speculation as to when he would return. This is even more evidence that Professional Golf in the US could be in trouble if a replacement for the aging super-star is not found soon.
There was huge attempt this week to hype the young Jordan Spieth, but with only one win on the tour at this point in his career, he will need to win some majors before golf can think about elevating him to Tiger’s status in the sport.
A look at the popularity of Professional Golf throughout the world shows us that the US is fifth in trending statistics behind the United Kingdom, Canada, Bermuda and South Africa. It leads Australia by only 5 points. In a nation with the highest number of participants in the sport, it trails in interest by sports fans.
People in the US are busy with their lives and have multiple interests. Without Tiger Woods, or someone to replace him, the sport will continue to diminish in fan appeal and interest. Look what happened to The LPGA when no American girls were winning tournaments on a regular basis. Only since Stacy Lewis and now, Lexi Thompson are starting to find success on the course, is interest returning here at home.
So if you are a golf fan like myself, and are hating on Tiger Woods, just remember where the sport was 10 years ago when he was at the top of his game and take a look at where it might go without him!