Masters ratings skyrocket as Tiger Woods chases history, Augusta National shows teeth

The Masters received a nice ratings boost to kick off the most anticipated weekend in golf.

ESPN’s live telecast of Thursday’s first round averaged 3.2 million viewers, the highest since 2015. That year, Jordan Spieth shot an opening round 8-under 64 en route to his first major championship title.

This year, Tiger Woods, Max Homa, Brooks Koepka, Brian Harman, Dustin Johnson, and Spieth highlighted the afternoon wave, which overlapped with ESPN’s coverage from 3 to 8 p.m. ET.

Woods played a solid first 13 holes and ended at 1-under when officials suspended play on Thursday evening. He looked healthy, a welcome sight for golf fans everywhere after his disappointing withdrawal from the Genesis Invitational in mid-February.

Woods then resumed his opening round early Friday and made two bogeys over the final five holes to shoot a 1-over 73.

Funny enough, in 2015, Woods returned from a lengthy layoff and shot a 73—much like this year. Except this time around, the 15-time major champion went on to set a new Masters record by making 24 straight consecutive cuts. He carded an even-par 72 on Friday at Augusta National.

But by day’s end Thursday, Bryson DeChambeau held the lead at 7-under, while Scottie Scheffler sat one stroke behind.

Thursday’s audience peaked at 3.8 million viewers in the 6:15 p.m. quarter-hour.

Last year’s first round, which saw Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, and Koepka open with 7-under 65s, averaged 2.5 million viewers.

With how tightly contested this year’s iteration of The Masters appears to be, it could be an even larger number as the week progresses.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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