The Masters Nov 10, 2020; Augusta, Georgia, USA; The 18th hole flag during a practice round for The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National GC. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the Masters is one of the most anticipated televised golf events in the sport. And even though the ratings through the first round of the iconic tournament were down from last year’s numbers, they’re still among the best in recent years.

ESPN announced that its live telecast of the first round of this week’s Masters Tournament averaged 2.5 million viewers, with the audience peaking at 2.9 million in the 5:45-6 p.m. While this marks a dropoff from last year’s edition of the Masters, which averaged 2.8 million viewers for the tournament’s opening round, they are still the second-best numbers in the past five years.

There’s also a very clear reason why last year drew a bigger audience: Tiger Woods.

The 2022 Masters marked the return of golf’s biggest name after he was injured in an auto accident the previous year. Without the compelling storyline of Woods’ return, the numbers understandably faltered a bit.

ESPN also saw relatively strong numbers from its new lead-in program, Welcome to the Masters, which the network reports averaged 766,000 viewers on ESPN between 1-3 p.m.

The network will continue its coverage of this year’s tournament throughout the weekend with Brooks Koepka leading the field and Woods making the cut.

[ESPN Press Room]