Pierce: CBS is rooting for Tiger Woods at the Masters
The folks at CBS are rooting for Tiger Woods to do well at the Masters Tournament this week.
Not because they like Woods. Not because they're hoping he wins.
But if he wins, CBS wins, too. What's good for Tiger Woods is good for TV ratings.
"It's very well-documented the kind of spike you get in the ratings when Tiger is in contention," said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. "During a regular PGA Tour event, that can be anywhere from 100- to 200-percent increase."
That's right. The ratings of your average pro golf tournament can double or triple if Woods is at or near the top of the leaderboard. Which makes him a pro athlete like no other football, basketball or baseball ratings don't double or triple based on the presence of a single athlete.
Nobody is expecting this week's golf ratings to increase anywhere near that much because this is not your average golf tournament.
"It's not as dramatic at the Masters because that is traditionally the most-watched golf event of the year," McManus said. "But there's no question if he is the storyline going into Saturday and Sunday, we will get a ratings spike."
Woods has finished in the top five at the Masters nine times since 2000, and the average final-round rating for those years is a 9.7. The average final-round rating of the other four Masters is an 8.0.
CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz who will be covering the Masters Tournament for CBS for the 28th time; 26th as host pointed out that this isn't anything new. He recalled Woods' first appearance as a pro at the Masters in 1997 as "a stunning performance. A win for the ages."
Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots, and broke the tournament scoring record that had stood for 32 years by finishing 18 under par.
"Every springtime since, he's returned in this position right here the focus of our attention," Nantz said.
Woods won three more Masters Tournaments, in 2001, 2002 and 2005. Last year, he was five over par and finished in a tie for 40th place.
So the question is will Tiger be in contention this year?
"I kind of think he's better prepared this year" than he was in 2012, said Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion who is now a CBS analyst. He said Woods' first tee shot will be "quite important," and if it goes well, "he's almost guaranteed to be in the running."
Nantz agreed with Faldo on the importance of Woods' first tee shot, and added that "the big question mark" will be "how well will he handle the greens."
"To me, his game is the most complete it's been since he won his last green jacket in 2005," Nantz said.
Which would be great for Tiger. And good for CBS.
But the network isn't sweating the ratings of this particular tournament.
"Even in years when Tiger has not been in close contention, the ratings have still been pretty darn good," McManus said.
"It's a bit of a bonus if he's on the leaderboard Saturday and Sunday, but if not I'm still confident we're going to get terrific ratings. It's always the most-watched and, quite frankly, the most-anticipated golf tournament of the year."
Even last year's sub-par 8.1 final-round rating easily beat the U.S. Open (6.6), the PGA Championship (3.9) and the British Open (3.3).
Although Tiger didn't win any of those, either.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com.
O First round
Thursday, 1 p.m.
TV • ESPN