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Tiger Woods' return to golf boosts the 2015 Masters

Tiger Woods proves, once again, that he does not need to lift a trophy to win a golf tournament — and last week at the Masters all TV eyes were on the 14-time major champion.

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Spieth walked away with the green jacket but Tiger Woods, as is traditionally the case when he’s on site with a club in his hand, won the recently completed Masters week.

And thanks to his presence at Augusta from Monday through Sunday — which included four complete rounds of golf for the first time since his unofficial Hero World Challenge in December — ESPN and CBS were also winners in the TV ratings race.

CBS Sports, which broadcast the third and fourth rounds from Augusta National, earned a 48 percent boost in viewership for Saturday’s coverage over last year’s, thanks largely to Tiger catching fire and getting into contention.

Woods skipped last year’s event due to injury — the first time he had missed a Masters in his professional career — and so did many of those who tune in to follow the every move of the former world No. 1. The 2014 Masters ratings plummeted to their lowest level in 10 years, with third-round ratings the lowest since 1995, according to Bloomberg News.

With Tiger in the hunt this go-round, and playing with top-ranked Rory McIlroy as Jordan Spieth was toppling record after record, including Woods’ lowest-scoring mark, CBS’ ratings and share of 6.5 and 16 were the highest since 2011’s 6.8/16.

Third-round coverage grabbed an average household metered market rating/share of 6.5/16, which in addition to being a huge leap from 2014, was also the highest third-round rating for the Masters

"If there’s somebody who can get up on that leaderboard and affect everybody else, it’s certainly Tiger Woods," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee noted as the 14-time major champion ran up the standings on Saturday.

The same could be said for the impact Woods has on everybody else watching at home, and ESPN, which aired the first two days of the proceedings, can attest to that as well.

ESPN’s live telecast of Friday’s second round earned a 2.1 U.S. household rating and averaged nearly 3 million viewers, according to fast data from Nielsen Media. The rating and audience was up from a 1.8 rating and some 2.5 million watchers of last year’s second round.

Thursday’s broadcast was even better for ESPN, which earned a 2.2 rating and 3.2 million viewers for its highest-rated and most-watched first-round coverage in the five years the network has aired the Masters. The two days combined averaged 2.2 U.S. household rating and 3.1 million viewers, compared to 1.6 rating and 2.2 million viewers in 2014.

For comparison, with Woods on the sidelines last year, TV ratings plunged to their lowest number since 1993, which was three years before Tiger turned pro. Other factors were involved in 2014, like Phil Mickelson missing the cut, but had the popular Lefty been in contention, even his presence can’t make up for Woods’ absence.

Final-round ratings numbers, when they are available, should be similarly gaudy, especially as word got out that Woods had hurt himself in the middle of his final round when he jammed a club into a rogue tree root.

Even without injury-related drama, numbers don't lie. They prove, once again, that whether you love him or hate him, you’re going to watch Tiger Woods.

Update: CBS Sports' final-round coverage of the Masters on Sunday earned a 26 percent ratings and viewership increase over last year’s figures. The finale boasted an average fast national household rating/share of 8.7/19 and an average viewership of 14 million viewers — up from 6.9/15 and 11.1 million, respectively, in 2014. CBS’ rating/share of 10.6/21 and viewership of 17.7 million peaked between 6:30-7 p.m. ET, as Spieth was putting the finishing touches on his record-breaking victory.