The Tiger Effect

Golfweek's Gene Yasuda kicks off a "Special Report" on Tiger's impact 10 years after turning pro, with other contributions posted here. Meanwhile the Washington Times' Tim Lemke focuses on television ratings.

Over the years, tournaments with Woods in contention have 10 percent to 20 percent higher television ratings than those without. And the exposure for sponsors, particularly Nike, can be worth $10 million for a big tournament, according to one report.

But this year, Woods has played in only 10 events and just three since the Masters in April. Woods went nine weeks without entering a tournament as he dealt with his father's death. During his absence, several key tournaments Woods normally enters saw major ratings drops. Sunday ratings for the Wachovia Championship in May were down 32 percent, while the Memorial saw a 39 percent dip in viewers.

Overall, ratings for golf on CBS and ABC are down more than 10 percent from this point last year, and ratings on NBC are down 3 percent.

It hasn't helped that the non-Tiger events have been won by a host of relative newcomers with little following, including J.B. Holmes, Chris Couch, John Senden and Brett Wetterich. And in six of those nine events, the winner prevailed by five strokes or more.

But this year's ratings dip clearly has not scared broadcasters away from the sport. CBS will expand its coverage from 16 events to 19, and NBC will broadcast 10 events instead of five. Meanwhile, the Golf Network is locked in to a 15-year contract as the PGA Tour's exclusive cable provider, and ABC will show the British Open through 2009.

Golf Channel, Golf Network. Eh, what's the difference.

"There's no question that having Tiger on the leader board has an effect on the ratings," said Brian Walker, Sports spokesman for NBC Sports. "That being said, NBC is bullish on golf in general as evidenced by our recent extension agreements with the PGA Tour, USGA and PGA of America, which will more than double our golf coverage beginning next year."