Augusta — There’s nothing like curiosity to propel TV ratings. So expect some big numbers on ESPN when Tiger Woods tees off at the Masters on Thursday afternoon after a five-month hiatus.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and predict it will be the highest ever [TV ratings] for that round of the Masters,” said William Sutton, associate director of the University of Central Florida’s sports business program.
“The ratings will be astronomically high for the whole Masters,” Sutton said. “This is Elvis, Michael Jackson and Babe Ruth all rolled into one.”
Sutton said golf fans and non-fans alike will be anxious to see how Woods performs on the first tee, to be broadcast live on ESPN at 1:42 p.m.
“Is he a super-hero? Does he shank it or drive it down the fairway?” asked Sutton, referring to what viewers want to see.
ESPN spokesman Mark Mandel said his network does not project ratings.
“Obviously, there is enormous interest in Tiger,” Mandel said.
Already, there is preliminary evidence of that interest.
Woods’ first news conference Monday afternoon was watched by 339,000 viewers on the Golf Channel, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
That was an increase of 422 percent from the same time slot a week ago.
On ESPN News, 306,000 people watched Woods’ news conference, according to the Nielsen data.
That represented a 325 percent increase over the same time slot a week ago.
Those who study TV numbers said Woods’ persona generally doubles the ratings, pleasing advertisers and TV execs alike.
But because of the sex scandal and media fallout, this Masters’ tournament will be especially popular on TV.
ESPN will show the first two rounds Thursday and Friday. Then the coverage switches to CBS for the final two rounds.
Think CBS wants Woods to make the cut?