Why Tiger Woods’ latest TV ratings were extra sweet for Golf Channel

Tiger woods is holding a golf ball in a blue hat and green shirt at the hero world challenge.

Tiger Woods' latest comeback in the golf silly season delivered regular-season PGA Tour ratings.

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The sun rises. The earth spins. And Tiger Woods delivers massive TV ratings.

These are some of the laws of the universe.

Indeed, the Tiger Woods ratings bump has become one of the most beloved subplots of the golf season annually — a creature comfort of Woods returns that helps to quantify just how large his impact is to the sport. And this latest Tiger Woods ratings bump, from his start at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last week, shows his influence has not gone anywhere, even as his body has endured yet another surgical procedure and lengthy recovery.

According to Sports Business Journal’s Josh Carpenter, Woods’ return on NBC, Golf Channel and Peacock delivered 617,000 average viewers for the week, a 53 percent gain over the network’s 2022 coverage from the same event, where Woods appeared but did not compete.

Tiger’s performance delivered marked gains during the tournament’s early week coverage on Golf Channel, giving the network 493,500 average viewers over the two days, a bump that nearly doubled the audience size over 2022. The gains were more modest on the weekend, 1.03 million average viewers on Saturday — a 57 percent bump over last year — and 884,000 average viewers on Sunday, a 31 percent bump over last year.

The numbers represent a big-time jump in viewership for the Hero World Challenge, an annual event with only 20 players and no cuts that annually draws the attention of the golf world due to its long-standing relationship with Woods, who has attempted a handful of comebacks at the event over the years. Woods’ latest comeback, after a subtalar fusion surgery that prematurely ended his Masters in April and kept him out of the major championship season, was in-line with viewership jumps from Woods’ past comebacks. In fact, Saturday’s 1.03 million average viewer affair was the most-watched Saturday round at the event since the last Tiger comeback, in 2019.

The ratings come as a welcome relief at NBC/Golf Channel, which endured through a slog of scarcely watched events during the PGA Tour’s inaugural “fall season.” Those events, which came after the conclusion of the 2023 PGA Tour season and featured a series of lightly attended events by the Tour’s stars, provided the golf world with a handful of intriguing storylines but failed to generate much of anything by way of viewership.

The RSM Classic, for example, generated a barely recognizable 120,000 average viewers on Golf Channel during the network’s Saturday coverage, and 70,000 on Sunday — both less than the paltry ratings LIV earned during its season championship on the CW weeks earlier. Woods’ return did nearly 10x those numbers on both days, albeit aided by a network television audience for both.

Of course, it’s easy to parse out viewership issues with some of the lowest-wattage PGA Tour events as being larger than they actually are. We’re certainly not doing that. It’s just that the Tour’s shift to the new “Signature Events” model has placed a renewed emphasis on a handful of golf tournaments each year — an effort that has had the unintended effect of de-emphasizing a lot of the remaining 40 or so events on the PGA Tour calendar. While the big events are the moneymakers, it’s important to the Tour’s financial model to find some level of viewership and commercial success with those smaller events, too.

One way to juice interest, evidently, is to welcome Tiger Woods — and though it’s unlikely we’ll see him teeing it up anytime soon at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, a win at the Hero World Challenge is a win for the PGA Tour writ large.

And for the broadcast partners, which have an estimated $5 billion (or $715 million annually) still owed to the PGA Tour through the remainder of the decade, the Hero ratings win is a good story to tell. Even if it came as a surprise to precisely nobody.

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