Tiger Woods’ improbable quest for a sixth Green Jacket at the Masters handed a stunning win to ESPN.
Walt Disney Co.’s sports outlet reported its largest audience for the first round of the golf tournament since 2018. And for Friday’s second round, when Woods was battling to avoid being eliminated halfway through the championship, an average of 3.5 million viewers tuned in , ESPN said in a statement Saturday, citing data from Nielsen Fast National.
Woods wasn’t playing in last year’s event because he was recovering from a near-fatal car crash that left him almost needing his right leg amputated. That goes a long way to explaining the audience increases this year – 21% on Thursday and 31% on Friday.
ESPN’s four-and-a-half hour Friday telecast of the events at Augusta National in Georgia peaked at 4.6 million viewers, when Woods was staging a comeback that eased the danger of him missing the two-round cut. Woods was playing the fifth hole when the telecast began.
The much-hyped return of the former world No. 1 to competitive golf at one of the most hallowed arenas in international sports serves as a reminder of how Woods remains a key draw for advertisers and TV networks even in the supposed twilight of his career at the age of 46. He has a Twitter audience of 6.6 million people waiting on his every word.
After weeks of speculation as to whether he’d even tee it up at Augusta, let alone challenge for the title, Woods looks set to start his final round somewhere toward the back of a pack behind runaway leader Scottie Scheffler. If Woods can even briefly get into the mix on Sunday afternoon, it would be an unexpected bonus for TV.
The main telecast switches to CBS for live weekend coverage. ESPN + shows featured groups and holes for the final two days.
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