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The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Tiger-free Masters turns off viewers

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game

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How many green jackets will Bubba Watson win? — Getty Images

On the face of it, the 2014 version of The Masters was a pretty good show.

You had a compelling veteran in Bubba Watson aiming for his second green jacket in three years, up against an exciting 20-year-old in Jordan Spieth, who for a while appeared to be on the verge of history.

And although the outcome was pretty much decided with four holes to play, you would have expected audiences to be captivated by some pretty good golf and a pretty good story. But there was something missing: Tiger Woods. Well maybe two things missing if you count Phil Mickelson.

Without those headliners -- Tiger was injured and Mickelson didn't make the cut -- ratings dropped substantially. Sunday's final round still drew a big number in Canada for Global -- a 1,057,000 average -- but that was still 33 per cent lower than last year's event.

In the U.S., CBS reported a 24 per cent drop in ratings -- the lowest since 2004.

You could blame it on the lack of drama over the final few holes, but numbers were down throughout the tournament. In fact, Saturday's audience on Global was also one-third lower than 2012 and CBS saw a 30 per cent drop.

While Tiger has driven up ratings for years, there's something odd in how this phenomenon continues to play out. Tiger hasn't been a force post-Elin and yet audiences still base their golf-watching on whether or not he's in the tournament.

That has to worry the PGA. Tiger's time is running out and it appears nobody else on tour has drawing power, possibly outside of Mickelson. And his best-before date appears to be approaching rapidly.

It's great to see interesting characters like Bubba Watson come along and fascinating to watch youngsters like Spieth develop. But viewers have basically told the PGA that if Tiger isn't there, they're not really interested.

Viewers apparently are also not very interested in Major League Soccer. Despite spending millions, Toronto FC hasn't been able to attract viewers after a good opening day. They attracted a paltry 101,000 to TSN on Saturday, while the Vancouver Whitecaps game in L.A. was watched by only 122,000.

So far, not a great return on the investment.

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television for the past weekend, according to BBM Canada overnight ratings:

1. NHL, Rangers-Habs/Leafs-Sens, Saturday, CBC: 1,504,000

2. PGA, The Masters final round, Sunday, Global: 1,057,000

3. NHL, Canucks at Oilers, Saturday, CBC: 887,000

4. PGA, The Masters third round, Saturday, Global: 667,000

5. MLB, Blue Jays at Orioles, Sunday, Sportsnet: 555,000

6. MLB, Blue Jays at Orioles, Saturday, Sportsnet: 519,000

7. NHL, Senators at Penguins, Sunday, TSN: 475,000

8. MLB, Blue Jays at Orioles, Friday, Sportsnet: 454,000

9. PGA, The Masters second round, Friday, TSN: 373,000

10. Auto racing, NASCAR Southern 500, Saturday, TSN: 231,000 (Fox audience not calculated)

11. Soccer, Manchester City at Liverpool, Sunday, TSN: 228,000

12. NHL, Red Wings at Blues, Sunday, TSN: 221,000

13. Auto racing, NASCAR Nationwide 200, Friday, TSN: 179,000

14. NBA, Raptors at Pistons, Sunday, TSN: 176,000

15. Soccer, Chelsea at Swansea, Sunday, Sportsnet: 161,000

16. Soccer, Vancouver at L.A., Saturday, TSN: 122,000

17. NBA, Raptors at Knicks, Friday, TSN2: 105,000

18. Soccer, Colorado at Toronto, Saturday, TSN: 101,000

19. Soccer, Everton at Sunderland, Saturday, Sportsnet: 86,000

20. Auto racing, IndyCar Long Beach GP, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 53,000

THREE TO WATCH

No, Canada: The first three months of the NHL playoffs (okay, it only seems that long) start on Wednesday but they will have less Canadian content than a film festival. The Montreal Canadiens are the lone Canadian team in the tournament, the fewest Great White North representation in 40 years. CBC and TSN have all the games, with the Canadiens opening things against the Tampa Bay Lighting on Wednesday (7 p.m. EDT, CBC.)

The little basketball team that could: You might not have noticed, but the Toronto Raptors have not only set a franchise record for wins but are looking like they could do some damage in the NBA playoffs. They can lock up third place in the Eastern Conference when they play their final regular season game against the New York Knicks Wednesday (8 p.m. EDT, Sportsnet.)

The last hurry-hard: The Grand Slam curling season winds up this week with a $200,000 prize still up for grabs. The contenders include Olympic champions Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs as well as Grand Slam leader Glenn Howard. The action starts Thursday morning, with the finals at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday (Sportsnet.)

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