The number of television viewers tuning in to the US Masters this weekend is expected to almost double thanks to the Tiger Woods effect, according to Nielsen Entertainment.
Figures released by Nielsen show that the return to form of injury-plagued Woods after years in the wilderness has had a dramatic effect on the number of people tuning in to golf.
“Television viewers are taking notice when Woods is playing in 2018,” Nielsen said in a statement on Wednesday.
“For the four events this season that Woods has finished inside the top 25, broadcast network viewership is up 93% versus the same events last year, or about two million more viewers on average.”
A 14-times major champion, Woods, 41, tees off at Augusta on Thursday vying to pull-off a comeback that would rank as one of the greatest in sport.
Woods last won a major at the 2008 US Open and has missed the last two Masters because of a debilitating back injury.
Pain free at last after spinal fusion surgery last April, Woods has ignited expectations with one runner-up finish and a tie for fifth in five official PGA Tour starts this year — his best finishes since 2015.
“When Tiger plays, fans tune in, it’s as simple as that,” said Jon Stainer, of Nielsen Sports Americas.
“Ahead of the Masters, his return to fitness and form will see swaths of viewers around the world tune in and increase golf’s following dramatically this weekend.”
For golf fans around the world, all eyes will be on Augusta as the 82nd edition of The Masters begins on Thursday.
The competition is the first major of the year and previous editions have provided plenty of drama with some brilliant and memorable moments.
We look back the five of the Masters highlights from yesteryear…
1978: GARY PLAYER‘S FINAL NINE HOLES
What's new this month in the World of Gary Player? Celebrating the 40th anniversary of his 1978 Masters, highlighting success at a number of Gary Player Design courses, and more. Read more in this month's PLAYER e-News: https://t.co/gWHhTuydqH pic.twitter.com/WoTdNHrYhO— Black Knight Intl (@BlackKnightIntl) April 2, 2018
The South African was eight shots off the lead going into the final round but Player came out of nowhere to claim his third green jacket. That was largely thanks to birdies on seven of the final 10 holes. His final round of 64 is still tied for the lowest final round score in Masters history.
1986: JACK NICKLAUS‘ WIN AGED 46
The legend proved that age was no barrier when it comes to winning titles. He had already won five times at Augusta but his sixth will probably go down as his greatest. Not only did he become the oldest major winner at 46, but he also came from behind to beat beat Seve Ballesteros, Tom Kite and Greg Norman.
2005: TIGER WOODS’ CHIP SHOT
Fans were left in awe as the American produced a moment of brilliance with the club. Facing an impossible shot at the 16th hole, Woods took a risk, chipping the ball far to the left of the cup and letting the ball roll into the hole for a birdie. Fitting stuff from the world No1 as he triumphed for his fourth Augusta title.
2010: PHIL MICKELSON‘S TREE SHOT
Not short of confidence when it comes to taking risks, Mickelson took a major one on the par five 13th hole. With a two-shot lead, he hit his tee shot into the woods behind a pine tree, making his chances even more difficult. But with his 6-iron, delivered one of the greatest shots to win for the third time.
2017: SERGIO GARCIA‘s PLAY-OFF WIN
At the 74th time of asking, finally there was something to celebrate for Garcia. The Spaniard had to do it the hard way after seeing a three-shot lead turn into a two-shot deficit with seven holes to play. But, Garcia held his nerve to pip Justin Rose in a memorable play-off to cap a special victory.
Tiger Woods makes his much-anticipated return to The Masters alongside Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood and Australian Marc Leishman on Thursday in the opening round of the 82nd Masters, according to tee times released Tuesday.
Augusta National Golf Club will send off the 14-time major winner, a four-time Masters champion who has missed the past two years battling back injuries, and his playing partners off the first tee at 10:42 (18:42 UAE).
Excitement has swirled around Woods this week after strong Masters tune-up efforts, including shares of second at the Valspar Championship and fifth at Bay Hill last month.
England’s Fleetwood defended his crown at Abu Dhabi this year while Leishman last won at the 2017 BMW Championship. Each seeks his first major title.
The Woods trio is scheduled to tee off at 13:27 (21:27 UAE) in Friday’s second round.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia of Spain is in the trio just behind the Woods group along with world number two Justin Thomas, who won his first major title in last year’s PGA Championship, and US Amateur champion Doc Redman.
A trio of major winners follows the traditional Masters-amateur champions pairing with two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson joined by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Aussie Jason Day.
Three-time Masters winner and five-time major champion Mickelson tees off fourth-from-last at 13:27 (21:27 UAE) on Thursday alongside fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
McIlroy, trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning his first green jacket, follows at 13:38 (21:38 UAE) alongside Spain’s third-ranked Jon Rahm and Aussie Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner.
Spieth, the 2015 Masters winner, goes off at 13:49 (21:49 UAE) alongside South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, and Sweden’s Alex Noren.
And the final Thursday trio includes world number one Dustin Johnson, who missed last year’s Masters after falling down a staircase on the eve of the first round, plus England’s Rose and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama tees off Thursday at 10:09 (18:09 UAE) with American Patton Kizzire and England’s Paul Casey.
England’s Ian Poulter, the last Masters qualifier after winning the PGA Houston Open on Sunday, tees off at 11:48 (19:48 UAE) on Thursday alongside American Patrick Cantlay and South Africa’s Trevor Immelman.
The first group off after honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player tee off at 08:15 (16:15 UAE) will be an all-American line-up of Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr. and Wesley Bryan at 08:30 (16:30 UAE).