When we talk about the Tiger Effect for golf, it’s not just about watching Tiger play. That’s certainly a factor, but it’s also about just a heightened sense of interest and anticipation for big events with Woods participating.
The Masters is probably the one golf event that most routinely crosses over into mainstream sports consciousness, thanks to a variety of factors. But when you add the potential intrigue of Tiger returning to a competitive form, it’s a solid combination. That was most illustrated by Thursday’s big ratings, when the large majority of the broadcast (including the peak raitngs) actually took place after Tiger’s round.
Coming off of those numbers, the Friday round was always going to be a likely winner for ESPN, and the data has so far borne that out:
An average of 3.9 million people watched ESPN’s telecast of the second round of the Masters Tournament on Friday, the most-viewed Friday at the Masters since 2013 and an increase of 50 percent over last year’s audience of 2.6 million, according to Nielsen Fast National data.
The second round, which aired from 3 p.m. until 7:45 p.m. ET, ranks as the third most-viewed Friday since ESPN began airing the Masters in 2008.
In addition to being up 50 percent over 2017’s Friday audience, the telecast also was up 28 percent over the audience of 3.1 million for the second round in 2016.
Those are huge numbers, but the weekend will be an interesting test. That’s because Tiger is out of contention, having made the cut but lingering near the bottom of the leaderboard. That also goes for Phil Mickelson, the other veteran name that has proven to be a draw. Their rounds will be pretty much over on Sunday (and were pretty much over today) by the time the broadcast window hits.
But the ratings still have a shot to be big; the names at the top of the leaderboard are all big ones, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, and Jon Rahm chasing Patrick Reed. It could be a lot of fun, and if people who were perhaps drawn back in thanks to Tiger stick around for it, it could be a big deal both for this Masters and for golf going forward.