For the millions of us who get our golf through TV, our summer and fall will not be the same with Tiger Woods out of action. He won’t be taking sandy divots at the British Open on ESPN and ABC. He won’t be fist-pumping at the PGA Championship on CBS. He won’t be making a processional walk with his wife at the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies on NBC (unless he becomes an assistant captain, and don’t count on that). The various Golf Channel talk shows won’t be able to analyze Tiger’s prospects and Tiger’s swings and Tiger’s performances. It will be a brave new world. As a general rule of thumb, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament doubles ratings.
“This will be an incredible opportunity for the guys, especially Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia,” said Tommy Roy, the executive producer for golf for NBC, which will cover the Ryder Cup and the FedEx Cup events. “Phil has already shown that he draws general sports fans, not just golfers, to the screen. Sergio showed at the Players that he’s coming into his own. But there’s no question, we’re going to feel the loss of Tiger, especially at the stroke-play events, where you’ll have a true golf viewership. The Ryder Cup is different, because we tend to show whatever match is closest that is farthest along, whoever that may be.”
Roy used to rank the ’86 Masters, won by Jack Nicklaus, as the most compelling golf telecast he had ever seen, followed by the ’99 Ryder Cup, when the Americans staged a wild Sunday comeback over the Europeans. But now he has a new No. 1: last week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. At the ’86 Masters (on CBS) and the ’99 Ryder Cup (on NBC), the intense action unfolded over an afternoon. “At the U.S. Open this year, you had that drama going from Friday afternoon through the end of play on Monday,” Roy said. And now that we know more about how bad Woods’s left knee was at Torrey Pines, what he accomplished there — and the telecast of it — is even more of a feat.