Tiger Woods skipped this year’s Masters. So has a huge chunk of the television audience.
The Masters dropped television viewers from last year’s event for the second day in a row. ESPN suffered through a 1.8 rating with 2.5 million viewers on Friday. Last year, 4.2 million viewers awarded the network a 3.0 for its Friday coverage. Last year’s rating ranks as ESPN’s highest since they began covering the tournament six years ago, so some drop may have been expected. Surely the suits in Bristol didn’t expect such a precipitous one. CBS airs the last two rounds.
Friday’s ratings improved upon Thursday’s dismal viewer turnout. The initial day of coverage drew a 1.5 for ESPN a year after the network scored a 2.4. The network lost viewers on both days of their 2014 coverage versus 2013.
In addition to back surgery sidelining one of the tournament’s biggest attractions, poor play derailed Phil Mickelson, who didn’t even make the cut. Tiger, like Phil, ages before our eyes–and this weekend Tiger aging away from them reminds us of this. He will keep playing. He needs five more major wins to break Jack Nicklaus’ record. But with age comes decline. The fact that he has been stuck at the same number of major wins for six years works as Exhibit A for that time-tested rule of Father Time. Woods last major victory was in 2008 and he did that basically on one foot.
Who knows? Maybe surgery will finally cure his ailing back and he will have a few more years that prop him back to glory. But one thing is for sure. There will come a time golf will be without Tiger Woods. He’s 38. Rather than a temporary bad break for ratings, Tiger’s absence may prove a sign of things to come. Now might be a good time for the PGA, the networks, and fans to prepare for later.