Debate is raging amongst the golf media right now. No, not about Donald Trump’s combover, which we are to see in all its mysterious glory here at Doral on Thursday, but whether the biggest story to emerge from the Honda Classic was Rory McIlroy’s rise to world number one or Tiger Woods’ final round 62.
Trump will be in the media centre at 9:15 sharp to explain his plans for the famous Miami Resort, which he acquired for a reported sum of $150m recently. But no matter what “The Donald” does this week or who he fires, the scribes will be tracking Tiger and Rory with more dogged determination than ever.
A quick perusal of the US golf media on Monday morning said quite a lot about the current state of the game and exactly who “moves the needle” as the say over here.
“It’s an interesting debate,” says ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, “you could make arguments for both sides.”
Harig field a piece on Woods’ closing 62 just minutes after the former No 1 posted his score at PGA National on Sunday. Later he filed a column on the Woods-McIlroy dynamic. Division is everywhere.
“It was a one-two punch,” says Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on which was the bigger story of the two.
“It’s a toss-up,” adds Steve Elling, the golf writer for CBSSports.com. “I wrote a long piece about Rory last night and a full-blown second story about Tiger. Best finish on PGA Tour in what, 30 months? Hard to go wrong with either.”
No-one was taking sides but USA Today’s Steve Steve DiMeglio think he has the answer to the needle-moving question in 2012.
“Rory and Phil are here,” he said, indicating a space between his knees and his waist. “Tiger is way up here.”
DiMeglio raised his palms to shoulder level to indicate the huge gulf between what he perceives in the star power of the three biggest names in the modern game.
Having closely watched McIlroy’s ascent in the eyes of the American public over the past three years, it was interesting to see how much bigger McIlroy has become in the United States since he followed last April’s Masters implosion with victory in the US Open.
Over the past two weeks he has helped boost TV viewing figures through the roof and his run to the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship made the event the most watched in its history.
Viewing figures for the final day of the Honda Classic reveal one thing - McIlroy is big news but when you throw Woods into the mix, the numbers rise exponentially.
NBC revealed yesterday that ratings were up 78% from last year and the best overnight in a decade.
Considering the Rory Sabbatini won last year, it’s no surprise that an event featuring Woods, McIlroy and Westwood should have more drawing power. But with Woods shooting 62, his best-ever closing round on the PGA Tour, NBC’s coverage drew what’s called a “3.2 overnight” which measures as 3.2% of TV households in “the 56 urban markets measured for overnights.”
This pales, however, when compared with the ratings achieved by the final round pairing between Woods and Mickelson at last month’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
According to CBS, the Woods-Phil clash drew the highest rating for the final round at Pebble Beach in 15 years with an average overnight household rating/share of 5.1%, up 96% from last year’s 2.6%.
Whatever way you cut it, McIlroy+Tiger= big huge smiles for TV executives all over the US. The emergence of the best young player seen in over a decade and the golfing resurgence/attempted comeback of the greatest active player is a scenario that’s almost too good to be true for the people who televise and make money from big time golf.
Walking around the course at Palm Beach Gardens last week, it was easy to see who the fans had really come to see. McIlroy drew a sizeable gallery when he headed out with young guns Keegan Bradley and Kyle Stanley over the first two days.
Yet his gallery was easily half the size of the small army that followed Woods, Lee Westwood and the Argentinian alternate Miguel Angel Carballo, who came in as a late replacement for Ian Poulter.
In the past, a PGA Tour venue would empty the second Woods finished his round. Yet the fans were still flocking to the course to see McIlroy on Saturday afternoon, when Woods started 90 minutes earlier than the Irish star.
Watching the US media torn between two lovers on Sunday was fascinating. it was like watching a divorcee stepping out with a young, beautiful thing only to see the ex turn up, looking stunning and desirable again.
One thing is certain. McIlroy has more star power in the US than any other “international” player since Greg Norman. Getting one over on Tiger in the popularity stakes, despite his recent travails, might require a few more major wins.
One of these days, Rory McIlroy might get to use Trump’s famous catchphrase and tell him “you’re fired.” But it’s not about to happen any time soon.
Attendance and viewing figures for the Honda Classic reveal that having Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in your field is a recipe for record numbers.
According to the organisers, the event attracted 161,700 fans between Monday and Sunday, which marks almost a 45% increase over the 111,950 fans who attended in 2011 and is more than a 60 percent increase over the 101,200 who attended The Honda Classic just two years ago.
According to NBC:
After Golf Channel’s early round coverage of Honda Classic registered the highest-rated and most-watched (1.0 / 1,044,000) round one ever in the history of the event on Thursday, NBC continued the momentum into the weekend, producing the best Saturday overnight delivery for the tournament since 2005, which also was up 27 percent from the same round in 2011.
NBC coverage (3-6 p.m. ET) of round three of The Honda Classic – which was up against college basketball on CBS – produced a 1.9 household rating and 5 share.
The Golf Channel’s Daniel Higgins wrote:
NBC earned a 3.2 overnight Nielsen rating for the final round of the PGA Tour Honda Classic yesterday, which saw Rory McIlroy withstand a Sunday charge from Tiger Woods for a two-stroke victory. The rating is the best for the event’s final round since ‘02, when Matt Kuchar won the event. The last three years have seen the Honda Classic get a 1.8 overnight for the final round. The telecast also peaked at a 4.3 rating as McIlroy was wrapping up the victory in the 5:30-5:45pm ET window. NBC also earned a 1.9 overnight on Saturday, marking the best third-round overnight since ‘05. Meanwhile, Golf Channel averaged 1.044 million viewers for coverage on Thursday, marking the event’s most-viewed opening round ever