Unofficially The PGA starts its Major season on Thursday with the Masters at the Augusta National Golf club. A traditional must-see event in American sports, viewership has declined over the years. Despite new rising stars in the ranks of golf’s elite, its expected that once again the Spring Classic this year, will not tote the selling points to get people to watch.
Golf has seen a lot of fans and viewers disappear from tuning in. Towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium, a sport that at one during its US Open tour had more viewers than the NBA Finals now continues to struggle to gain back lovers of the classic sport. Since then, many people have come to the conclusion that the big variable that factored into the declining numbers was the mysterious disappearance of Tiger Woods.
A refresher on what happened to Woods, who once was the most popular athlete in the world, off the course issues arose in his personal life and several injuries to his back and knee have kept him from competing – albeit contending- in some of golf’s biggest matches. It’s no secret that when and if Woods plays people will watch and if it appears that he’ll have a chance at winning, the numbers continue to increase.
But as in any sport or profession, when one of the more popular people fade away their spotlight is then transitioned upon someone else. Golf has had Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith and Bubba Watson put on impressive performances in past PGA tours, most notably Watson who won a green jacket at the Masters twice in his career. Yet, none of these players have yet to garnish the viewership numbers that skyrocketed when Woods’ championship run dominated the early 2000’s.
“The sport simply doesn’t need Tiger Woods right now and, frankly, it’s relaxing,” Chris Chase said of Fox Sports. “You don’t have to wonder what he’s doing and the networks don’t have to follow him from hole-to-hole acting like he still matters,” he continued. “The game has grown as the greatest has gone away. It’s a good thing — but not forever.”
Hypothetically asking, if golf needs a Tigers Woods type player to compete in order for people to get back interested in watching or playing golf has resulted in several conclusions.
Here’s a small experiment that was conducted via Golf Digest:
In the Hero Worlds Golf Challenge in Dec 2016, which was the last event Woods played in, the event drew in about 786,000 viewers. That number lead to a staggering increase in viewership up to 190% prior to the same event that was televised the year before coverage of last year’s event when Woods didn’t play.
Numbers dwindle as Woods eventually fell out of contention in the outing but even with that in mind viewership continued to increase and still outdid their past numbers of the event on a weekend.
With the Masters starting Thursday and Woods officially withdrawing from the tournament many wonder who will tune in and watch. It was reported early Wednesday that another favorite to win this years outing, Dustin Johnson will miss it due to an injury he sustained from falling down a set of stairs. Golf is badly in need of new face with an even more intriguing backstory similar to a Woods but for right now they just don’t have it and predictably so, the Master’s view count will continue to suffer.