A certain 42-year-old made his return to competitive golf this weekend, and by any barometer, it was an auspicious start. Tiger Woods looked healthy and spry in his strolls around Torrey Pines, and for a brief period on Sunday, he stepped into a time machine, showcasing a formidability that made Tiger "Tiger." Even his detractors would admit, it was everything one could possibly want to see.
How much they saw, however, is another issue.
Complaints regarding Tiger media attention are far from new, starting all the back to his fledgling celebrity in the fall of 1996. His intrigue and capacity to thrill were unmatched, yet the coverage of the 150 other players in any given field on any given week, so the reasoning went, was sacrificed in pursuit of Tiger time. Since Woods was dominating his competition, these sentiments, though noted, often drifted into the ether.
However, such criticism returned during the Farmers Insurance Open, only this time a tad more amplified. Don't believe us? Type "Tiger coverage" into the social app of your choosing, and watch the uproar cascade from your screen.
Do the grumblings have merit? On the surface, the protests are logical: A large portion of the telecast was focused on a player ranked outside the world's top 600 who was never truly in contention.
Pragmatically … it's Tiger freaking Woods. Warts and all, he continues to be sun of the sport's solar system.
"He may be the biggest name in sports, matched only by Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali," says Neal H. Pilson, former president of CBS Sports and president of Pilson Communications, Inc. "Does he still move the needle? The answer is yes."
It's a notion supported by the numbers. According to CBS Sports, Sunday's final-round coverage of the Farmers earned a 2.9 overnight rating, up 38 percent from last year's broadcast (with no Tiger playing the weekend after he missed the cut) and the event's highest-rated Sunday in five years (an event won, not coincidentally, by Woods). Saturday pulled in a 2.3 rating, its best mark in seven years and 53 percent over 2017.
"When he plays, the networks are going to give him coverage," Pilson says. "And the fact is the public wants to see that coverage."