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PGA Tour's Problem: No Watching Tiger Unravel

Monday, 9 Aug 2010 | 12:11 PM ET

Tiger is now a polarizing figure

If Woods doesn't improve he may not be on TV

As you’ve surely heard by now, Tiger Woods finished the weekend at the Bridgestone Invitational at 18 strokes over par, 30 strokes behind the eventual winner Hunter Mahan.

Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods

When the ratings come out, there won’t be any surprises. Sunday's final round figures to finish up below a 2.0 rating. Last year’s Sunday rating when Woods won it all? A 4.3.

Due to his transgressions, Tiger Woods is now a polarizing figure. More people dislike him and more people would like to see his downfall instead of just read about it.

The PGA Tour would benefit if they could have shown the train wreck from this weekend, but they can’t. If Woods isn’t playing well—and his best non-major finish was T19 at the Memorial in June—he doesn’t make it into the live television window.

I’m not suggesting that as many people would watch the unraveling of Woods as watched his total domination in the past, but there would be an audience for it. If you hate Notre Dame, you love to watch them lose. Same with the New York Yankees.

Any audience the PGA Tour can get they'd take. Viewership on those final Sundays for PGA Tournaments this year, through last weekend, are down 16 percent from 4.3 million viewers last year to 3.6 million viewers this year, according to Nielsen.

For their part, the PGA Tour says that cumulative viewership (Thursday-Sunday) in its tournaments are only down four percent this year. That’s not just spin. That’s how they sell the tournaments to their sponsors and I understand that.

The reality is though that there would be an audience of people who would root against Tiger and watch him play badly, but the professional golf’s setup isn’t conducive to that happening. Those who aren’t in the hunt go off early, long before the TV window opens. I might love to see Notre Dame lose, but it has to be live. I don’t watch the highlights of them losing.

So the Tour is stuck. If Tiger isn’t playing well, they basically have nothing to offer, at least live, to the fans who would like to see him shank shots all over the place like he did this weekend.

Of course, if Woods doesn’t improve quickly, you won’t see him on television anyway as he might not have enough FedEx points to qualify for play.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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