Tiger victories propel ratings, badge sales

Some fans still hate to see Tiger Woods win, but his three victories this season surely have delighted PGA officials, tournament directors and television executives.

The Greenbrier Classic, which begins Thursday and features Woods for the first time in its three-year history, cut off badge sales last week because of high demand -- a first.

Woods’ victory at AT&T National on Sunday should prompt even more interest in the Greenbrier, said tournament director Tim McNeely: “His win will certainly impact the interest in our event generally, I think. And our [television] viewership will be significantly increased and, hopefully, interest in our event next year via sponsorships and badge sales.”

Woods’ first PGA Tour victory in more than two years, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, led to that tournament’s best television ratings in a decade. Woods’ Memorial victory propelled ratings 138 percent higher than the 2011 tournament.

On-course attendance is seeing a big boost at tournaments Woods has played in. In March, the Honda Classic drew 45 percent more fans than the previous year; Woods hadn’t played the tournament since 1993, when he was an amateur. The 2012 attendance was 60 percent higher than in 2010.

Like the Greenbrier Classic, the Honda Classic is a younger tournament, at 6 years old. The final day saw its private hospitality areas stretching from the 15th to 17th holes sold out for the first time in tournament history. Tournament officials are looking into expanded seating areas for next year.

Like the other tournaments, television viewership also increased, which was beneficial for PGA National, where the Honda Classic is played, and the surrounding area. Woods stormed back from nine shots back to pull within one of eventual winner Rory McIlroy on the final day, pushing television viewership up 78 percent over the previous year.

"The big attendance is great,” PGA National general manager and vice president Joel Page told The Palm Beach Post, “But the main hit for us is in the worldwide marketing. People around the country and world see us on television.”

The Honda Classic estimates that the overall economic impact from the tournament on the community is about $30 million.

But as much as a winning Woods helps ratings, attendance and host cities, Woods’ success doesn’t necessarily affect recreational golf, said Gregory T.A. Nathan, senior vice president of the National Golf Foundation.

“It can be said that professional golf, with or without Tiger, has only a modest effect on recreational golf,” he said. “[The National Golf Foundation’s] research has shown that people play golf and buy golf-related products because they like or love golf, not because of Tiger Woods.”

That being said, Nathan doesn't dismiss Woods’ success completely: “He does raise the profile and interest in the game when he's in the hunt or the winner's circle.”