It might have occupied a different slot on the schedule than golf fans are used to and been competing with the mighty National Football League, but the result was the same: the Masters was the most-watched golf tournament of the year, if only narrowly.
According to a report from Front Office Sports, the Masters was the highest-rated and most-watched golf event of the year as CBS’ Sunday final-round broadcast averaged a 3.4 TV rating and 5.59 million viewers. The tournament barely edged out Collin Morikawa’s PGA Championship win in August, which averaged a 3.3 rating and 5.15 million viewers.
Bringing ESPN’s College GameDay to Augusta National proved fruitful: the network’s premier college football show averaged 1.71 million viewers, its highest draw of the season.
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Still, despite these positive numbers, competing for eyeballs with NFL fans on a Sunday had quite the impact on year-over-year numbers. Compared to Tiger Woods’ historic win in 2019, numbers for Dustin Johnson’s maiden Masters victory were down 51 percent in ratings and 48 percent in viewership.
The Masters moved up its starting times for the final round in hopes of gaining more audience on NFL Sunday, but even that was not enough to lessen the impact of competing with Tom Brady and Co. When the U.S. Open competed with the NFL in September, NBC saw a similar decline in ratings.
Golf is not the only sport that has seen a drop in ratings this year with the NBA, MLB and NHL all seeing their ratings drop as the pandemic has altered league schedules.
The lack of viewers can also be attributed to Woods not being in contention in either event. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open while his Masters defense ended in a tie for 37th, including a 10 on the 12th hole during his final round. Johnson running away with the title and the absence of roars also didn’t help.
The Masters also expanded its considerable digital streaming options yet again this year, and those viewers are not counted in the ratings and viewership numbers.