Should the owner of five Green Jackets proceed with his plan, it will mark his first appearance at Augusta National since 2019, when the then-43-year-old put the finishing touches on a comeback for the ages, winning his first major championship in 11 years.
Speaking to the media earlier today, Woods said he’ll put in another nine practice holes before he makes a final decision, but by all indications, he plans to tee up on Thursday. “As of right now, I feel like I am going to play,” Woods said. He added that he is of the opinion that he can win the tournament outright, which is music to CBS’ ears.
“I love competing and I feel like if I can compete at the highest level, I’m going to,” Woods said. “If I feel like I can still win, I’m going to play. But if I feel like I can’t, you won’t see me out here. … I don’t show up to an event unless I think I can win it.”
That Woods is even ambulatory after his Feb. 23, 2021, SUV crash is the stuff of medical miracles. The injuries he sustained in the wreck were so cataclysmic that surgeons initially feared they would have to remove the shattered right leg. In lieu of amputation, doctors effectively pieced Woods’ limb back together by inserting a metal rod in his tibia and using screws and pins to stabilize the fractured bones in his ankle and foot.
As much as Jim Nantz is wont to say that the deliveries for golf’s grandest tourney aren’t wholly dependent on the fortunes of Eldrick Tont Woods, the historical record suggests otherwise. No PGA broadcast has put up bigger numbers since Tiger secured his stunning fifth victory at Augusta in 2019; per Nielsen, that Sunday round averaged 15.4 million viewers and a 9.9 household rating, making it the year’s 90th most-watched TV program.
The hybrid live/delayed audience—CBS aired an encore presentation on the heels of a scheduled broadcast that had been disrupted by heavy weather—was the third-largest for a final round at Augusta since Woods went pro in 1996. Woods, who since making his debut has been a one-man ratings driver, set the all-time TV record the following year, when he won his very first Masters in a scorched-earth final round that saw him beat runner-up Tom Kite by 12 strokes. CBS’s coverage of that historic performance averaged 20.3 million viewers and a 14.1 rating.
Woods’ second Masters victory scared up 19.2 million viewers and a 13.3 rating. He’s had a similar impact on the three other majors, so much so that the TV deliveries tend to soar whenever he’s sporting his traditional Sunday get-up of red shirt and black pants.
While Woods didn’t so much as get out of bed for the first four months after the crash, it wasn’t all that long after he first got to his feet that he started swinging a three-wood again. The winner of 15 majors played his first public round in December, when he and his son Charlie took second place at the PNC Championship.
If Woods’ indomitable will suggests that he’s not of this earth—recall that he was still recovering from his fifth spinal surgery when he crashed that Genesis GV80—his ability to construct a redemption narrative arguably has made him more popular than ever. The T-800 unit that won so many titles with mechanized efficiency can still be glimpsed whenever he’s in the hunt, but the man himself has softened around the edges. While it still takes some getting used to, the underdog tag looks pretty good on Tiger Woods.
However things shake out this weekend, fans who want to follow Tiger’s latest improbable comeback effort won’t have to endure a slew of commercial interruptions to do so. As always, Augusta’s uncluttered environment—ad breaks are restricted to just four minutes per hour, or roughly a quarter of the average broadcast load—is shared by three global sponsors. IBM, AT&T and Mercedes-Benz together pony up around $24 million to air their spots, a cash infusion that offsets CBS’s production costs.
The upshot? If you stay glued to CBS for the entirety of the final two rounds of the Masters, you’ll see no more than 36 minutes of commercials. As astonishing a prospect as it may be, Tiger’s rebirth won’t be the only thing worth cheering for this weekend.