Love Tiger Woods or hate him, golf fans don’t watch The Masters if the former ace is not in the hunt. With Woods completely out of contention during Sunday’s final round and on the way to his worst finish at Augusta National since turning pro, CBS viewership tanked to its lowest preliminary TV ratings since 2004, according to Bloomberg.
An average of 8.1 percent of households in the top 56 U.S. TV markets tuned in to watch Bubba Watson outlast Louis Oosthuizen in a dramatic, sudden-death playoff, CBS spokesperson Jerry Caraccioli told Bloomberg. That’s a 22 percent drop from the 10.4 ratings of a year ago, when Woods put on a late charge but fell short of 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel.
Watson captured his first green jacket on the strength of his booming drives and a spectacular hooking approach shot from the pine straw that set up an easy two-putt for the win on the second bonus frame. Woods, meanwhile, who started the day at 3-over par and scuffled to a closing 2-over 74 and a tie for 40th place, was nowhere to be seen until cameras replayed his too-little-too-late birdie on his 72nd hole.
After his convincing triumph at Bay Hill two weeks ago -- earning his first PGA Tour victory in more than two years -- Woods started Masters week as the odds-on favorite to walk away with his fifth green jacket. Instead, he failed to break par in all four rounds and was never in the mix.
“I didn't hit the ball very good this week,” Woods told reporters.
After finishing Thursday’s first round with bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18, Woods went into a complete tailspin on Friday. The lowlight of a day on which he was unable to control his driver, irons, or putter was when Tiger kicked his 9-iron after an errant tee shot on the par-3 16th. His churlish performance, which may cost him some dough in disciplinary fines, drew catcalls from announcers and Twitter typists.
Despite the bad reviews, it appeared that TV watchers still wanted a healthy helping of Tiger with their Easter dinners and when they didn’t get it, they went channel-surfing.
Other issues may have played a role in the low numbers as well. The controversy over Augusta’s male-only membership policy, on full display this year as it had not been for a decade, may have kept women from watching. As Bloomberg noted, its March 28 report about a potential clash brewing due to IBM naming a woman, Virginia Rometty, as its new chief executive sparked worldwide discussion of the club’s exclusionary practice.
In addition, Mickelson’s early triple-bogey on the par-3 fourth hole seemed to signal the end of Lefty’s run at his fourth green jacket. While his 2004 win drew only a 7.3 national rating, Mickelson has become one of golf’s most popular players and his less-than-stellar Sunday outing may have caused viewers to tune out in droves.
Final national ratings will be available on April 12, according to Bloomberg.