Tiger Woods increases interest in golf over weekend

With Tiger Woods looking to be on the cusp of winning his first PGA Tour tournament in more than 4½ years, media coverage soared this weekend.

Woods finished tied for second at the Valspar Championship, but the Tiger Effect meant that Woods received 4½ times the amount of media coverage from Thursday through Monday morning than any of the winners of the four previous tournaments. The comparison is based on stories done on the champions, according to Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing Group, a sponsorship evaluation and media tracking company.

In fact, Smallwood said Woods received 12 percent more exposure than the four previous winning golfers combined and three times more exposure than Valspar winner Paul Casey. The four previous winners includes Phil Mickelson, as well as Ted Potter Jr., Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas.

"When Tiger is at the top of the leaderboard in a tournament, the sports content he provides increases the viewership and attention that the media outlets crave and thrive off of," Smallwood said. "This makes him an anomaly in sports and has made him a 'must watch' when he plays."

Third-round coverage on Saturday of the event by NBC delivered a 3.26 overnight rating, the highest third round on any broadcast network since the 2006 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The final round had a 5.1 overnight rating on NBC, the highest non-major PGA Tour broadcast since the 2013 Players Championship.

And those who didn't watch on TV got their fix elsewhere. On Saturday, nearly 5.5 million minutes were streamed on Golf Channel and NBC Sports digital networks, up more than 600 percent compared to the Saturday of the same event last year. The Valspar saw 27.2 million minutes streamed across Golf Channel / NBC Sports' digital platforms, which made it the most-streamed PGA Tour event ever for the network, according to Adobe Analytics.

On-site business at the Valspar was also robust, including 150,000 tickets sold, up from 112,000 last year when Woods wasn't playing, according to tournament director Tracy West.

Tiger's appearance at the three PGA Tour tournaments that took place earlier this year, the Farmers Insurance Open, the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic, also saw bumps.

Ticket sales for the Farmers, where Woods finished tied for 23rd, were up 34 percent year over year, according to tournament CEO Peter Ripa. At the Genesis Open, where Woods missed the cut, sales more than doubled as compared to last year, said Dan Scali, the director of marketing for the Tiger Woods Foundation, which puts on the event. For the Honda Classic, where Tiger finished 12th, merchandise sales were up an impressive 25 percent, said tournament director Andrew George.

"Tiger brings a palpable energy that can't quite be described to those who haven't seen it," George said.

While there has been buzz around tickets for the Masters, with Woods all of a sudden among the favorites to win, a bump hasn't happened as of yet. One broker told ESPN that one of the reasons for this is that prices started out higher this year. Usually Masters day badges at this time are selling for an average of roughly $1,100 a day. Going into the weekend, the average badge was going for around $2,200.