In case you’ve somehow missed it, Tiger Woods is back. After a few years of false starts (and a DUI and spinal fusion surgery), he nearly won last week at the Valspar Championship, and he’s off and running at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, opening today with a -4 round of 68, currently tied for second.
Look how happy he is, too:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 15, 2018
His return has oddsmakers convinced, or at least has oddsmakers reacting to everyone else being convinced and throwing money on Tiger. Woods was favored to win this weekend, and today he became the favorite to win the Masters, too:
2018 Masters updated
T Woods 8/1
D Johnson 9/1
J Thomas 9/1
J Spieth 12/1
J Day 14/1
J Rahm 14/1
R McIlroy 16/1
J Rose 16/1
P Mickelson 16/1
R Fowler 18/1
B Watson 25/1
P Casey 25/1
S Garcia 30/1
H Matsuyama 30/1
T Fleetwood 30/1
M Leishman 40/1
A Noren 50/1
P Reed 50/1
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) March 15, 2018
ESPN’s Clayton Purdom expanded on it:
During his hot start, Las Vegas moved Woods to the top of the odds boards, making him the favorite to win the Masters.
The Westgate SuperBook on Thursday moved Woods from 10-1 to 8-1, putting him slightly ahead of Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, who are each 9-1.
Woods also is the Masters favorite at Caesars Palace and William Hill sportsbooks.
After finishing in a tie for second at last week’s Valspar Championship, Woods entered this week’s tournament at Bay Hill as the betting favorite. It’s the first time he has been the favorite to win a PGA Tour event since the 2014 Honda Classic. At the Westgate, more bets were placed and more money was wagered on Woods to win the Arnold Palmer than on any other golfer.
On the surface, it might seem like a bit of an overreaction; Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, after all, have been some of the best golfers alive over the past year or so. But this is a result of two factors, one being Tiger’s aforementioned brilliance so far this season. That’s good for golf, there’s no doubt about it. (David Feherty essentially predicted this in an interview with us a few weeks back.)
VIEWERSHIP: Final RD coverage of @ValsparChamp on NBC (3-6p ET) earned a 5.11 Overnight rating. Highest-rated (non-major) PGA TOUR broadcast since 2013 Players Champ (5.7). Sunday’s Final RD also highest-rated golf telecast (outside of the Masters) since 2015 PGA Champ (5.14). pic.twitter.com/GnD85Cx7R0
— Golf Channel PR (@GolfChannelPR) March 12, 2018
That’s a big rating for golf, yes, but it should also scare the hell out of the PGA Tour.
realize everyone is sharing all these numbers but the final round of the Valspar beating all rounds of '16 and '17 US Open, British Open, PGA is 😵 https://t.co/U9mf4JAIHc
— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) March 12, 2018
Sports Media Watch broke down the ratings even further:
Paul Casey‘s win — in which Woods finished in a tie for second and missed a birdie putt that would have forced a playoff — delivered the highest non-major PGA overnight since the 2013 Players Championship (5.7). Not coincidentally, that was a Woods victory.
The 5.1 beat every PGA Championship telecast since 2014 (6.0), every U.S. Open telecast since 2013 (6.1), and every British Open telecast since 2000 (7.5).
That last line is damning; yes, people should be excited to tune in to watch Tiger in contention for the first time in years. That’s no surprise. But for a fun but clearly second-tier PGA Tour tournament to so easily destroy ratings for 3 of the 4 majors going back at least half a decade, that’s shocking. Golf and golf networks have long had an issue finding the right balance between focusing on Tiger and cultivating a generation of younger stars.
With Tiger largely absent from contention for four-plus years, there was a vacuum at the top of the sport, and plenty of players stepped up to fill it. Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and plenty of other names have all played stellar, historically good golf over that span. Obviously golf is going to struggle to find someone with Tiger’s star power; he’s once-in-a-lifetime.
But there’s been plenty to market, and golf’s inability to do so is highlighted by Tiger’s impact. He’s clearly not going to be around forever; hell, it’s not impossible that he injures himself tomorrow and can’t play again. If this is what golf coverage is delivering, then things need to change, because it’s clearly not working. Tiger can only cover things up for so long.
Hopefully they answer the wake up call.