Tiger Woods hasn’t won a golf tournament since 2013. But over the weekend, he proved again that when he’s competing, America tunes in.
NBC Sports saw a record 3.26 overnight rating on Saturday for its coverage of the Valspar Championship, the best rating for Round 3 of a PGA Tour event on any broadcast network since 2006, and the best rating for the Valspar tournament in its history—an eye-popping 181% gain over Round 3 of the event last year.
That was without Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy, who both missed the cut after Friday. It suggests that for all that has been made about the sport’s exciting young stars like Spieth, McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Jason Day, none is in the same universe as Tiger Woods in grabbing mainstream attention.
The Valspar Championship is a non-Major tournament that rarely brings mainstream attention beyond devoted golf fans. This weekend, with Woods near the top of the leaderboard, the Valspar was one of the biggest stories in sports, even on Selection Sunday, when the NCAA college basketball tournament bracket is revealed.
Tiger Woods greatest power Is not off the tee. It’s best defined by this sentence, “I can’t wait to watch the final round of the Valspar Championship today”
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) March 11, 2018
NBCUniversal’s Golf Channel, which ran lead-in coverage to the Valspar, saw a 1.07 overnight rating, its best rating ever for this event. Golf Channel also saw a record .59 overnight rating for its Round 2 coverage on Friday, up 103% over its Round 2 coverage of the event last year.
Perhaps most telling: On Saturday, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Digital saw a 612% jump in minutes streamed over last year, which is promising for cord-cutter and millennial interest in pro golf.
Ratings for Sunday’s final round will come out by mid-morning.
Woods did not play in a PGA Tour event from August 2015 through December 2016, and unofficially launched his comeback at the Hero World Challenge in 2016 with a new Bridgestone Golf ball sponsorship. That company’s CEO Angel Ilagan told Yahoo Finance in November that Woods is “the only golfer in the history of golf that has actually had a positive financial impact” on the sport. Ilagan also argued that Woods “transcends the game” along with legends like Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.
That may sound over the top, but based on the ratings injection his presence brought to a non-Major tournament this weekend, it’s hard to dispute Ilagan’s praise.