The Match: The Great, Good, Bad And Ugly

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Here goes....

The Great

Charles Barkley - He should have been on the full broadcast, in hindsight. He got right to the point as Tiger and Phil struggled horrible to read Shadow Creek’s greens. He jousted as only he can with Justin Verlander’s Tweets, too. But sadly, Barkley also was not around for the last couple of hours to put a bow.

The Audio - Turns out, a feed of just open microphones would have been enough for most people. Phil was in hard sell mode early but once he settled into a normal round of golf, basically narrated the proceedings. Tiger chimed in with enough to make a player-only feed functional had that been an option. Yes, Phil was winded at times and a breather was distracting, but the real potential for this production came together as both players had driven beautifully down the 6th, the cameras were tight to both players as we could hear each in between clubs for the approach. The kind of gripping cinematic moment that the organizers had envisioned.

ShotLink Putt Probables - A simple graphic told us how far the player was from the hole and his career make percentage (ShotLink era) from that distance. Simple, clean and informative.

The Good

Live Drone Shot Down The First Fairway - It was pretty cool to move from one last player interview to a live shot down the first fairway. Unfortunately, the technology appeared limited from there on out. Perhaps too many competing cell signals?

Pat Perez - he sounded engaged and as someone who knew the players, through in a few opinionated remarks about being surprised that Tiger was giving putts and at how they were orchestrating the charity-driven side bets. And not one F-bomb!

Hole Graphics - animated hole graphics with tracer technology may have been the most vibrant and eye-catching I’ve seen. Once it was clear the drone was not reliable and the drone flyovers were needed, these jumped out as adding a futuristic feel to the telecast.

Tiger Woods’ Generosity - Wow was that many giving putts! But they all helped in the interest of pace of play and entertainment value of the match. This is a nice way of saying he twice prevented (possibly) having The Match end on a missed putt. Phil returned the favor once, by my count.

Phil Mickelson Wearing A Mic - He should be in the great category, but the hard sell mode a few times (how great is this? how great was Samuel Jackson?) dings the performance a bit. I love how he went off topic with the PGA Tour’s Mark Russell, with brother Tim Mickelson and with others. That’s about how Phil plays a normal round of golf and he gave a window into the types of conversations he has. If only…

The Bad

Announcers Talking Over Players - Everyone was guilty at some point and I’m sympathetic to the cause as this was not a normal broadcast crew, not a normal match and an unprecedented amount of sound for a sporting event to take in. Still, to miss out on Mickelson asking Russell about a rule of golf change he just does not comprehend and several other side chats about shots, was tough for the core golf fan. The more novice viewer may prefer announcer storytelling, which is why lead announcer Ernie Johnson trampled over so much talk.

The Champion’s Belt - sensational buckle design, simple brown leather look but uh, it didn’t fit Phil Mickelson, who looked visibly annoyed he couldn’t put it on. Next time, let’s make two belts, one for those with subcutaneous fat and one for those without.

Ernie Johnson - As Phil Mickelson is looking through his rangefinder for a yardage, Ernie Johnson is telling us on the 18th hole that Phil “has the laser out.” Somewhere Frank Chirkinian was screaming. Unfortunately, Johnson regularly spoke over on-course conversations, stated the obvious (what we saw on screen) and did not embellish the action. He would have been better served by having his Inside the NBA counterpart Charles Barkley in the booth, perhaps.

Natalie Gulbis - She appeared for some first hole observations and surfaced again at the 18th tee for a bad interview after Tiger’s chip-in. Her absence in between was not missed.

The Ugly

The Playoff Hole - a wise move by promoters to be ready for a tight match and sudden death, the 93 yard shot required a hole location change and had a strange feel to it given the amount of money at stake.

Capital One Ads - Presented in Playing Through mode as we saw golfers walking off the tee, we missed out on match discussions to be annoyed by Samuel Jackson and Charles Barkley asking what’s in our wallet. Better than Capital One cafe spots, but still pretty annoying commercials given that some of us paid for the match.

Gambling - All of the stakeholders learned a valuable lesson today: golf is tricky to bet on and real-time gambling is even trickier. While Mark Broadie supplied some stats that were of note. But the whirlwind nature of a two-man golf match—yes it moved amazingly fast—made it hard to embed bets or betting scenarios to enjoy. The most interesting pointed out may have been at the 7th tee when we learned the great 5-1 price punters got on the match being even after nine, was in play. Otherwise, the action moved too fast for fun gaming.

Gambling 2 - We heard about what MGM punters were betting on each hole but was it interesting to hear what punters were putting on each hole, without any real reason to be better players on particular holes? Not at all.

Shadow Creek - The course lived up to its name, serving up shadows while the late light hit the treetops. This created an unimpressive look to a course once ranked in Golf Digest’s top ten in the U.S. Add on the excess of Flinstone rocks, strategically-light design and tree overplanting, and Shadow Creek did not pop. The course exuded underwhelming television appeal in part because of the odd lighting situation. The 17th hole was deemed a genuine centerpiece but came off looking like something even waterfall lover Donald Trump would say was sooooo last century.

AT&T/Turner/Bleacher Report Synergy - Seen as the future of sports broadcasting, the inability to conduct normal transactions and ensuing decision to give away a pay-per-view match overshadowed everything. The disastrous rollout of the supposed future of broadcasting and sports packaging provided a stark reminder that the rush to usher in a new era is just that: rushed.

The Match: Technical Failure Causes Turner To Stream The Match For Free

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Darren Rovell first broke the news on Twitter after most potential online buyers of The Match’s $19.99 stream could not even reach the point of giving BR Live and AT&T their money. His ESPN.com story explaining what caused the backers to throw in the towel and give away the stream.

Anyone on Twitter heard immediate reports of viewers unable to even get a purchase going, while others mentioned getting The Match free without ever paying. Which, it turns out, was around the time executives huddled somewhere and uh, cut the pay cord.

Given the number of sports organizations and media tycoons taking The Match’s pay-per-view streaming temperature, the failure could rank with the great debacles in sports television history. Then again, maybe many weren’t paying and the decision was easy.

Who will be hurt most by losing paid streamers we won’t know since AT&T, Turner and its various affiliated brands were making a grand synergy play here.

Did Tiger and Phil receive a cut of the paid subscriptions?

We also won’t know that unless one of the parties publicly complains. Or sues.

The culprit behind the technology failure is also not known, though SBJ’s Austin Karp noted Turner’s $200 million purchase of iStreamplanet as a possible source to consider.

As for those who did pay—myself included—the experience via a cable pay-per-view pass was excellent until non-AT&T-owned outlets ended the stream before the trophy ceremony where Phil Mickelson was unable to get the winner’s belt around his waist.

Great Read: "How 'The Match' began—and where it might lead"

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Golf World’s Dave Shedloski takes a deep dive into The Match and how the Tiger-Phil event came together. You’ll have to wade through some self-congratulatory stuff and mentions of activations and next-generation deals, but it’s a great read for anyone interested in the anatomy of a deal.

There were also a few details that stood out worth commenting on. Starting with this on the rights fee, which would

No, this will be an intense competition between two rivals—the bitter kind for many years—who have forged a friendship, an alliance and a nameless joint-entity shell company into which cash already is flowing, thanks to the fee WarnerMedia’s Turner paid (much higher than the reported $10 million) for the rights to the more commercially catchy property known as “Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil.”

Much higher than $10 million in rights for one day. That’s giving new meaning to loss leader!

The origins of the event surprised me:

The concept for The Match began with a hypothetical question between two Hollywood friends, CAA’s Jack Whigham, the agency’s co-head of motion picture talent, and one of his clients, Bryan Zuriff, a producer whose credits include the film, “Jobs,” and the Showtime series “Ray Donovan.”

Zuriff, a golf enthusiast who was a huge fan of “The Skins Game” that used to occupy Thanksgiving weekend, is that creative type who has a million ideas running through his mind at all hours.

The story ultimately confirms the “franchise” concept in play.

All along the plan has been to create a franchise of high-stakes matches. So, too, is the aspect of players squaring off, said one source, “for a full PGA Tour purse in one-day events.” In other words, taking the tour’s concept of early-round featured pairings to a new level with an immediate payoff.

Woods and Mickelson would own such a series, which Loy said could include the two competing together as teammates. That would have the unmistakable feel of Challenge Golf, the 1960s TV series in which Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were the featured team against a collection of high-profile professionals. “We hope to see other players involved. You might see Phil and Tiger against players at the top of the world rankings, or two players from the same nation,” Loy said. “But, obviously, a lot depends on the pay-per-view numbers. We’re optimistic about it.”

Still comes down to the numbers.

Saudi Arabia: Tiger Turns Down Massive Overseas Appearance Fee

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A much deserved narrative is forming as Tiger Woods reportedly joins Roger Federer in passing on a huge Saudi Arabia appearance fee, reports the Telegraph’s James Corrigan. The inaugural European Tour event, already on the ropes even before Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, is to be played Jan 31-February 3rd, the week after the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Yet it is understood he deemed Saudi Arabia to be an excursion too far - even for at least £2.5m - an amount that apparently dwarfs anything he has received before for an official overseas tournament.

Sources say he was first approached in the summer, after his dramatic competitive resurrection at the Open, where he led going into the last nine before finishing sixth, and then at the USPGA Championship, where he finished second.

By then the Kingdom had already signed up Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey to play in the government-sponsored event, which has become even more controversial since last month's pre-meditated killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Istanbul.

The Match To Feature "Predictive Data" And "Side Challenges" For Charity, Live Drone Coverage Too

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I’m less excited about predictive data stuff since I actually know that golf is totally unpredictable, but also because the limited galleries and two-player format will incorporate live drones into the visuals. Woohoo! Finally! (Fox tried a few years ago at Chambers Bay but the technology has improved.)

As for the hole-by-hole lines and gaming elements, those are only as fun as the cleverness of the “props”—will Tiger twirl the club after his drive—and the ability to join to contribute to the MGM bottom line.

The side challenges component will all come down to the players and what they are able to pull off on the spot, but certainly seem interesting.

For Immediate Release:

Turner Sports’ Presentation of Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil

PPV Event – Friday, Nov. 23, at 3 p.m. ET – to Incorporate
First-of-its-Kind Innovations for Live Golf

PPV Broadcast to Include First-Ever Use of Predictive Data for Each Hole;
In Addition to Proprietary Data Stream Provided by MGM Resorts Race & Sports Books

Live Drone Coverage Presented by AT&T & Unprecedented Access to Woods & Mickelson Among Innovative Technologies Bringing Viewers Inside the High-Stakes $9 Million Match Play Competition

Turner Sports’ exclusive coverage of Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil, the blockbuster pay-per-view event featuring the iconic Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, will incorporate a number of innovative concepts into the live golf presentation including first-of-its-kind integrations centered on predictive data. The match will take place Friday, Nov. 23, at Noon PT / 3 p.m. ET with a suggested retail price of $19.99.

The broadcast will include real-time, hole-by-hole statistics that will be displayed on screen to forecast the probability of certain outcomes during the match.  The data is based on a model and algorithm that combines ShotLink Intelligence with characteristics of Shadow Creek to calculate the likelihood of various scenarios to occur. Separately, after a hole has concluded, the broadcast will integrate a proprietary data stream provided by the MGM Resorts Race & Sports Books – in association with the MGM/GVC Interactive Gaming Joint Venture – to deliver odds, moneyline and other information associated with the golfers’ performance. 

Both Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side challenges against one another during the live competition.  For instance, Woods or Mickelson could raise the stakes by challenging the other to get closest-to-the-pin; whether one of them can make a crucial putt from 10-feet away; the chances of getting “up-and-down” from a certain location on the course or similar competition during a hole as they play their match, with money being donated to the winning golfer’s charity of choice.

Live PPV coverage will also integrate enhancements that will provide fans with unprecedented access to Woods, Mickelson and Shadow Creek including:

  • Woods and Mickelson, along with their caddies, mic’d throughout the entire event, to capture the strategy and competitive banter that takes place during the winner-take-all $9 million match play competition; 

  • Live state-of-the-art drone coverage – “Drone View by AT&T” – delivering camera angles that have never been seen before for a live golf event;

  • Data elements from Toptracer, presented by Capital One, that will display real-time trajectories and flight path for each shot;

  • The use of Virtual Eye real-time golf animations;

  • A variety of super slo-mo cameras to provide more defined coverage of specialty shots on the course.

As previously announced, Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil will be available on PPV through Turner’s B/R Live (available now for purchase), AT&T’s DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse.  The PPV event will be distributed to other cable, satellite and telco operators including Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon and Altice in the U.S. and Rogers, Shaw and Bell in Canada through In Demand and Vubiquity (an Amdocs Company). AT&T is the official 4K sponsor of The Match, which will also be broadcast in 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) on DIRECTV channel 106 for $29.99*.  Turner International will facilitate the distribution of live PPV access outside the U.S. and Canada. 

In addition to live pay-per-view event coverage, accompanying content will be distributed across wide-ranging Turner, WarnerMedia and AT&T platforms including: 

  • HBO Sports and its groundbreaking 18-time Sports Emmy ® Award-winning 24/7 reality franchise will capture all the excitement leading up to the match when it airs Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 10 p.m.;

  • Bleacher Report and its wildly-popular House of Highlights, which recently surpassed 10 million followers on Instagram, will offer comprehensive highlights and behind-the-scenes content;

  • Turner’s TNT will also televise programming with select content from the event a week following the live competition. 

The media rights agreement with Turner was completed in partnership between CAA Sports, Excel Sports Management and Lagardère Sports. Excel and Lagardère Sports, who represent Woods and Mickelson respectively, are also the event organizers for The Match

There is also a new trailer featuring people when their forces were higher, more nasal infused and so, so young:

HBO First Look: Tiger And Phil 24/7

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While I could swear that’s Miguel Angel Jimenez getting off the plane, we’ll take HBO’s word and accept this early “24/7” footage of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

The show is part of the buildup to November’s The Match.

Inside The NBA: Come On "The Match" Haters, You Have To Admit Phil Knows How To Promote

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Not only did he shed the Fonzie leather jacket and work in some product to calm down the increasingly distracting mullet, but Phil Mickelson turned in a masterful performance promoting The Match during TNT’s always fun Inside The NBA. I was ready to sign up by the end!

The Match: "Suggested Retail Price Of $19.99"

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WarnerMedia announced the “pricing and distribution partnerships” for their Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson match, the first ever pay-per-view golf event. Capital One cardholders get 25% off.

We’ll never know how many are sold, but I’m having a hard time seeing huge sales at that price given the general hostility exhibited by the golf audience at having to pay for the first time. Then again, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and reality may set in that there is nothing else on television worth watching!

For Immediate Release:

For Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil 

Blockbuster Pay Per View Event – Produced by Turner Sports – to Tee Off 

Friday, Nov. 23, at 3 p.m. (EST)/Noon (PST) With a Suggested Retail Price of $19.99

PPV Event Reflects New AT&T Combined Resources, Available Through

Turner’s B/R Live, AT&T’s DIRECTV, U-verse and Other TV Providers

 WarnerMedia’s Turner will present Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil, a highly-anticipated, head-to-head match play competition between golf icons Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on Friday, Nov. 23, beginning at high noon PT (3 p.m. ET).  The pay-per-view event, hosted by MGM Resorts International at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, will be widely distributed on PPV with a suggested retail price of $19.99.  

Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil will be available on PPV through Turner’s B/R LiveAT&T’s DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse.  The PPV will be distributed to other cable, satellite and telco operators including Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon and Altice in the U.S. and RogersShaw and Bell in Canada through In Demand and Vubiquity (an Amdocs Company). Turner International will facilitate the distribution of live PPV access outside the U.S. and Canada. 

Turner Sports is producing all live event coverage while also serving as the exclusive sales and sponsorship partner, in conjunction with Excel Sports Management and Lagardère Sports. As title sponsor, Capital One will collaborate with Turner Sports and Turner Ignite Sports on a number of digital and broadcast integrations leading up to and during the live pay-per-view event and will have cardholder access opportunities for the event as well. Details will be released leading up to the event on how Capital One cardholders may receive a one-time discount for 25% off B/R Live.  Additionally, Capital One is the official bank and credit card of Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil, as well as the preferred payment card on B/R Live.

AT&T is the official 4K sponsor of The Match, which will be broadcast on DIRECTV’s 4K live event channel 106*.  In addition to live pay-per-view event coverage, accompanying content will be distributed across wide-ranging Turner, WarnerMedia and AT&T platforms including:

  • HBO Sports and its groundbreaking 18-time Sports Emmy ® Award-winning 24/7 reality franchise will capture all the excitement leading up to the match;

  • Bleacher Report and its wildly-popular House of Highlights, which recently surpassed 10 million followers on Instagram, will offer comprehensive highlights and behind-the-scenes content;

  • Turner’s TNT will also televise programming with select content from the event in the weeks following the live competition. 

B/R Live, Turner’s new premium live sports streaming service, will offer the most direct access to purchase the PPV event across any digital platform.  B/R Live is available at https://live.bleacherreport.com; by downloading the B/R Live app through iTunes or Google Play; and/or via Apple TV, the Roku platform and Amazon Fire TV. 

As previously announced, the winner of this blockbuster, winner-take-all showdown between two golf legends will walk away with $9 million.  During the live event competition, both Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side challenges against one another.  For instance, Woods or Mickelson could raise the stakes by challenging the other to a long-drive, closest-to-the-pin or similar competition during a hole as they play their match, with money being donated to the winning golfer’s charity of choice.

Turner Sports and its Turner Ignite Sports is simultaneously working closely with additional marketing partners to elevate their brands within this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, tapping into award-winning live events, experiential and creative marketing solutions. As associate sponsor, Audi will serve as the official automotive partner for Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil.  Along with having on-air and on-course signage, the auto brand will host the Audi Driving Range and will have a variety of vehicles on display for attendees. AT&T is also sponsoring the event, serving as the official wireless and data services partner and will present drone course coverage for the first time at Shadow Creek. 

The media rights agreement with Turner was completed in partnership between CAA Sports, Excel Sports Management and Lagardère Sports. Excel and Lagardère Sports, who represent Woods and Mickelson respectively, are also the event organizers for The Match. Broadcast talent and other event specifics for Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil will be announced in the coming weeks.

Tiger Gets His Calamity Jane, Takes To Social To Share The Spoils Of Win No. 80

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One of the coolest—dopiest to the kids reading out there—trophies in golf arrived at Tiger’s house and he promptly posted multiple shots of the 2018 Tour Championship’s Calamity Jane trophy.

Because the world revolves around FedEx and the gobs of money they are paying for the FedExCup, the Calamity Jane may be a 2019 casualty of the Tour Championship shifting to a handicap tournament resolving only the FedExCup.

So enjoy!

Tiger Admits Lack Of Conditioning Caught Up With Him At The Ryder Cup

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Speaking at an exhibition in Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods reflected on win No. 80, the Ryder Cup and next year’s Presidents Cup captaincy.

While his haters will gripe, I admire his willingness to admit the heat, stress and thrills of his playoff play took on him physically after not being prepared physically to play as much as he did. From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story:

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Turns Out The Tiger Woods Foundation Is Secretly Working To Combine Art And Science To Make More Putts!

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We always knew those special kids supposedly studying everything but golf at the Tiger Woods Foundation’s learning center were really just plotting to combine art and science to help Tiger make more putts.

Just look on Instagram!

Shark Logic: Worried "That Tiger Talk" Taking Away From The Youth He Is In Touch With

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High-tech Golf Cart Purveyor, former Fox golf analyst and Living Icon Of The Brand is making the rounds to promote something and as he’s prone to do, is reminding us of his eternal youth by expressing not one, but two mildly confusing thoughts.

Dan Kilbridge sums up the thoughts for Golfweek from this Yahoo podcast with Dan Roberts where Florida’s worst hedge sheerer admitted some admiration for Tiger’s miraculous 2018 comeback but expressed concern “that Tiger talk” is overshadowing the only people who matter, the children of tomorrow.

Greg Norman:

“I think he’s done an excellent job going from where he was a year ago,” Norman said. “Massive leap, quite honestly, in 12 months. God bless him. He did everything right, stepped up to the plate and won. It’s good for him, there’s no question, it’s good for the game of golf, no question. But I hope they don’t put all their eggs in one basket again and be all Tiger and forget about all this other wonderful, fantastic talent even coming out of Korea and Japan and South Africa and Australia. Unbelievable amount of talent bubbling up around the world, and I’d hate to see them get lost again in that Tiger talk.”

If they beat him, or prove as compelling, won’t that Tiger talk subside?

This was special:

Norman said his favorite players to watch include Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Francesco Molinari.

“I see a really good base of great, young talent there today and a lot of those guys today (are) unintimidated by Tiger,” Norman said.

I’m going to put Norman down for not having reviewed the Tour Championship tape.

Norman’s thoughts on ratings seemed to contradict his above stated views.

“TV ratings are up because of what Tiger Woods does to every other player,” Norman said. “It’s not just about the one player, it’s about all the supporting cast who are equal if not better than him. He’s just pulling them along to make them more standout.”

So yes ratings are flat or up, a victory in the currrent sports market, because of Tiger even when he doesn’t play. By this logic, then Tiger is bringing more notoriety to the others and this is a negative how, exactly?

Sam Snead On Golf's Mount Rushmore? Tiger Says So

I noticed a few were surprised at Tiger putting himself on golf’s Mount Rushmore but with 14 majors and the all-time PGA Tour wins mark in sight, I’m confident he’s safe.

But Sam Snead over Palmer, Hogan and Hagen?



5.1: Tiger Delivers 206% Increase In Tour Championship Final Round Rating

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Big numbers!

For Immediate Release:

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL ROUND BECOMES HIGHEST-RATED FEDEXCUP

PLAYOFFS TELECAST EVER AS TIGER WOODS WINS FOR FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS

5.21 Overnight Rating Becomes Highest-Rated PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018 

18.4 Million Minutes Streamed on Sunday (+561% YoY); Most-Streamed

NBC Sports Sunday Golf Round Ever (Excluding Majors) 

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 24, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:15 p.m. ET) earned a 5.21 Overnight rating, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast is up 206% vs. 2017 (1.70).  It also becomes the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-’18) and the highest-rated PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excluding majors). Coverage peaked from 5:30-6p (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion, only trailing the peaks for The Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 p.m. ET) posted at 4.35 Overnight rating, which is the highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (2000-’18)

“Tiger Woods’ win at the TOUR Championship was an unforgettable event in golf,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “The massive gallery following Tiger up the 18th fairway was matched by record viewership across NBC Sports’ platforms. Golf is experiencing a surge in momentum with Tiger and the young stars of the Tiger-inspired generation atop leaderboards. We look forward to this momentum continuing this week at the Ryder Cup.”

Sunday’s Final Round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports’ Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (Noon-1:30p) also earned a .74 Overnight rating to become the highest Sunday lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-’18).

Tiger Wins His 80th PGA Tour Title, Completes A Comeback For The Ages

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By most measures, Tiger’s comeback is one of the finest in sports history. In golf terms, there’s always Hogan and his six majors after getting hit by a bus, but nonetheless, second best in this category is just fine.

Either way, who cares where this comeback really ranks. We as sports fans get to ride along for a few more years of history.

Bob Harig opened his ESPN.com story, as did AP’s Paul Newberry in this piece, with the coronation scene at East Lake’s 18th.

Steve DiMeglio opens his USA Today story with Tiger’s confident arrival to the course. Lebron in a Tom Ford, it wasn’t. But as he notes, the old confidence is back.

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No sleeves. Sunday drip. 🔴⚫️ #LiveUnderPar

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Tiger was the biggest story in sports Sunday, as he should be, writes ESPN.com’s Ian O’Connor.

David Dusek with the emotions and the numbers behind Tiger’s over 1800 days outside a winner’s circle.

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com says that as wonderful as Tiger’s return win seems, it may now just be one of many fine days in a career that once again has room to add incredible feats.

Cameron Morfit at PGATour.com sums up a great day and also features quotes from caddie Joe LaCava.

Tiger talked with Scott Van Pelt on Sportscenter and sounded pretty spent from the energy and emotions required to win again.

The final round highlights from PGA Tour Entertainment:

Does Tiger Have To Win The Tour Championship To Make The Comeback "Complete"?

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A couple of stories on Tiger’s three-stroke lead heading into the Tour Championship final round left me uneasy. After all, should he wake up not feeling it, shoot 72 to someone else’s great round, there will be declarations that he’s never going to be the same golfer we knew.

To be clear, he’s never going to be the same golfer we knew but he’s certainly been close enough of late to give us hope for a legitimate chase of the all-time majors record over the next five years.

But as Dan Kilbridge notes in this review of the comeback, it’s incredible how far Woods has come and also how much his putter—not the often scrutinized ballstriking—has made the difference this year. Or prevented victory.

There will, however, be pressure today given his status as the greatest frontrunner the sport has ever seen, as Bob Harig notes for ESPN.com:

Woods has been money with third-round leads, especially of 3 shots or more. He has never failed to deliver, 32 times going on to victory when holding this wide of a margin.

Woods' overall record of 53-4 on the PGA Tour with at least a tie for the lead is mind-blowing itself. Imagine getting to this position 57 times. 

But Tiger has also seemingly peaked in the third rounds in 2018, opening up the possibility that he’s not as sharp today and gets passed. That would be a shame given how perfect of a final bow a win at East Lake would put on his steady 2018 comeback. But there also needs to be some perspective that he’s still coming back and has also far exceeded expectations given where his game was a few years ago.

Thankfully It's Still 2018: Tiger Opens Tour Championship With 65, Tied For Lead

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Golfweek’s David Dusek has the details of Tiger’s first round at East Lake in five years and it was a beauty.

“This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink,” Woods said, referring to his opening round at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. “Conditions were soft there. It’s hard to get the ball close here. There’s so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can’t get the ball close.”

If this were 2019 and Tiger came into the Tour Championship/FedExCup finale 20th in the standings, things would have been different after round one given the new “strokes-based” handicap system announced this week. As Joel Beall notes for GolfDigest.com, “thank the golf gods the system doesn't come to fruition until next fall.”

Beall posts the full top 8 and Tiger would be five back of Justin Rose after one round.

Of more note for those wanting to consider how the system will work for the Cup leaders, there is Bryson DeChambeau—winner of two playoff events and the FedExCup leader—already three back following an opening 71.

What To Make Of The Mixed PGA Tour Playoff Ratings News?

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Maybe the numbers do not matter with the PGA Tour Playoffs(C) moving to a late-August finish in 2019. Or perhaps a couple of golf-loving Nielsen viewers took the family to the Catskills Northern Trust Open weekend. 

Either way, with Tiger Woods lingering around and getting lots of coverage, the Northern Trust saw a drop in ratings while Labor Day's final Dell Technologies saw a nice boost from Woods. 

From Paulsen at Sports Media Watch:

Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Northern Trust, the first event of the PGA Tour playoffs, earned a 1.9 rating and 2.75 million viewers on CBS Sunday — down 10% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (2.1, 3.14M) but up a tick and 5% respectively from 2016 (1.8, 2.63M).

The news was better for Monday's final round at the TPC Boston, where a 2.1 rating was up 8% from 2017 on Tiger's back. The Monday coverage also faced little competition, again making it an attractive coverage day for some other tour to jump on now that the PGA Tour is abandoning Labor Day Monday's going forward. 

Paulsen also updates his Woods Effect numbers from the season with the Northern Trust being just the second tournament to not see an increase. Lead-in numbers are included for Golf Channel and those are also huge, with the 1.34 million average audience for Sunday's coverage. 

Tiger Shoots 62 Day After Skipping Pro-Am...

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A permanent lifetime exemption from pro-ams is in order, no?

From Ryan Lavner's GolfChannel.com item after Tiger Woods opened the BMW Championship with a 62, tying Rory McIlroy for the lead and continuing to progress in his return from back surgery.

“I needed it,” he said Thursday. “I really did. I’ve played a lot of golf in the last six weeks, and I needed a day off to recover and make sure I was fresh today.”

To pass the time Wednesday, Woods said he went to the gym, received treatment and watched “a lot” of U.S. Open tennis. He felt even better about his decision when the temperatures soared over 90 degrees, and Hideki Matsuyama and a couple of caddies had to pull out of the pro-am because of heat exhaustion.

Of course there was also the Scotty Cameron coming off the 60-day DL that might have helped, too, as Tiger noted after the round. 

AT&T Betting Big On Golf Beyond "The Match" Or Just Making Their Best Possible Synergy Play?

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Lost in the details and griping over pay-per-view of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson the day after Thanksgiving may be the role of the main backer: AT&T.

From Mike Murphy's MarketWatch.com item:

AT&T said it will distribute live pay-per-view coverage on a number of its platforms, including DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and sports streaming site B/R Live. The company said the match will also be available on other on-demand platforms, and a rebroadcast will air on the TNT network. The pay-per-view price was not announced.

In a statement, AT&T said the two will be able to make side challenges: “Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side-challenges against one another during the match. For instance, Woods or Mickelson could raise the stakes by challenging the other to a long-drive, closest-to-the-pin or similar competition during a hole as they play their match, with money being donated to the winning golfer’s charity of choice.”

While long focused on sponsoring tournaments and providing bonus coverage on its more recent acquisition, DirecTV, this is the first major play by AT&T on the golf content side. With CEO Randall Stephenson on the PGA Tour Policy Board, could their role in the match and use of TNT as the broadcasting brand to deliver the coverage--despite consistently loathsome reviews of their PGA Championship effort--give folks the impression AT&T is getting in the golf business. 

Or, is this all a way to justify their recent mergers by bringing together too many AT&T properties under the AT&T umbrella: DirecTV, TNT, Bleacher Report, HBO and AT&T U-Verse?

Time will tell, but a big PGA Championship bid does not seem too far fetched. Certainly bidding on some PGA Tour events for 2022 and beyond seems plausible. One question remains and probably always will go unanswered: what does Stephenson do when these matters come up before the PGA Tour Policy Board?