Tiger Woods return to golf after a 144-day rehab/self-imposed exile Thursday produced record numbers for ESPN. The live coverage of the opening round at the Masters drew over 4.9 million viewers.
When informed that the telecast surpassed the 2008 U.S. Open Championship playoff to become the most-viewed golf telecast in cable history, Vasherized wept.
The record probably will stand for less than 24 hours, or until the Nielsen overnight ratings for Friday are released Saturday morning.
Thursdays ratings for the open round of the Masters on ESPN was more than double what it was in 2008.
It wasn't just the TV ratings that were boosted by Tiger's return. Live coverage of the Masters Tournament on ESPN3.com led to a nearly nine-fold increase – 787% among unique viewers over last year’s first round.
Masters.com provided shot-by-shot live streaming coverage of the Woods, K.J. Choi, Matt Kutcher group on Friday and it no doubt will report record hits as well.
The highest-rated golf event was the final round of the Master in 1997 on CBS. That was Woods' initial winning of the green jacket. If the leaderboard still has Woods and Mickelson at or near the top of Sunday, that record will be easily swept aside.