Ouch, What A Pain: Tiger's Absence Could Send CBS' Masters Ratings Into Rough

Apr 1 2014, 1:59pm CDT | by

Talk about a bad opening tee shot caused by a bad back.

There isn’t as much rough at Augusta National Golf course as at your typical U.S. Open track, but whatever rough there is, the 2014 Masters TV ratings may have just found it.

Tiger Woods announced on Tuesday that he was withdrawing from the 2014 Masters after revealing he had a microdiscectomy procedure done on his ailing back earlier in the week.

Hello, to any and all of his competitors who now see their chances of winning a green jacket increase with the 4-time champion watching from the galleries.

Goodbye, to CBS's chances of setting some sort of ratings record for final round coverage (unless Jack Nicklaus decides to lace ‘em up and wins a miraculous 7th title at the age of 74.

And quite possibly, goodbye to ratings on par with past Masters.

There are numerous articles (note exhibits A, B, C) that demonstrate Woods’ Midas touch for impacting television viewership, though exhibit C (a historical look at Masters ratings) shows that even the Tiger Effect is a bit less than when he was a novelty in 1997 and 2001.

For example, Tiger’s first and second wins at Augusta registered Nielsen ratings of 14.1 and 13.0.  Conversely, CBS averaged 8.1% of households for the fourth round of the 2012 Masters.  Though thrilling in that American Bubba Watson won his first (and only to this point) professional major on the second hole of sudden-death, the ratings were 22% lower in 2012 than the previous year…largely because Tiger was not a factor in 2012 but was in 2011.

And even though his rival and fan favorite, Phil Mickelson, won his third green jacket in 2010, that Tiger was in the mix helped drive ratings in the final round to their third-highest of all-time (12.0 rating) behind the 1997 and 2001 events.

Of course, if Phil makes a push to tie Tiger (and Arnold Palmer for that matter) by winning his fourth title and sixth overall major, then ratings could be saved.

But without Tiger in the hunt to try to get back on the horse of winning majors, one must wonder how much wind that will take out of CBS’s sails.

Fortunately, not too many sponsors will be negatively impacted by this news.  That’s because the Masters Tournament stands out as the one sporting event with the fewest commercial interruptions.  IBM is the primary sponsor, but something tells me they will survive.


Patrick is an Economics Professor at the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University in St Louis, MO, and the Founder/Director of Sportsimpacts.  Follow him on Twitter.

Source: Forbes Business


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