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GolfTube: Reviewing Tiger Woods’ week at the Australian Open

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Sizing up the TV coverage from the Emirates Australian Open ... and away we go.

There was no need to manufacture storylines or find a way to reel in viewers at the Australian Open. After months of wondering if we'd ever see Tiger Woods in contention at another major event, we got our answer in his first trip back to Sydney since he turned pro.

A lot has changed in Woods' life since that maiden year on tour, but one thing's for certain: the buzz Tiger Woods brings to an event is unmistakable. Even when his game is still in a rebuilding stage, glimmers of hope -- like the three stellar rounds he posted at the Australian Open -- can draw the casual golf fan back to his couch.

There's no debating having Woods in contention at a major event was the reason the Golf Channel received such a huge ratings boost during quieter time in the season. To put things in perspective, this year's opening round was up 212% from the same week in 2010 -- which happened to be the JB Were Masters -- making it the third highest non-PGA Tour opening round on the Golf Channel in 2011.

But the Golf Channel execs weren't the only ones in a good mood all week. Even the on-air talent seemed to be overly giddy, including Ian Baker-Finch, who made an extremely bold statement during the opening of Saturday's telecast.

"I've had the opportunity to play with Tiger and watch his swing down at Medalist in Florida," said Baker-Finch, "and I have to tell you the swing, ball flight ... well, everything is looking better. He just needs match practice and a few more times like this, but I have no doubt he'll back back to No. 1 and winning many, many more times."

Yes, the Australian Open had it all. Huge ratings. Commentators gushing over Tiger Woods' game. A spot in primetime. When you think about it, the buzz fans witnessed this week used to be commonplace at any event where Woods was in contention.

But now, the shot of Woods' name near the top of the leaderboard seemed to add a new level of excitement to the tournament. Maybe that's a good thing; for once, it seemed like the Golf Channel crew was relishing the opportunity to be a part of what appeared, for at least a little while, to be the return of one of golf's greatest players to the spotlight.

"He's not quite back just yet, but it's clear from the way he played this week that we could be seeing something special in the future," Frank Nobilo said. "It's only a matter of time before he puts it all together for four rounds and wins again."

Who knows when that will be exactly, but when Woods does finally put it together for four rounds, you can be certain golf fans will be tuning in.

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John Daly is still ... John Daly

For at least one day, John Daly and Tiger Woods were the biggest headliners at the Australian Open. Of course, Daly was in the news for all the wrong reasons.

After hitting one ball in the water in the 11th hole, Daly proceeded to hit six more into the lake before running out. Golf Channel's cameras didn't broadcast the entire moment for viewers, but they showed the most important shot, which happened to be Daly's last, before he walked off the course.

"You have to wonder about him sometimes," said Frank Nobilo. "Why didn't he just lay up? It seems like the logical thing to do, but I'm not sure it even crossed his mind."

Cameras then caught Daly walking off the course, before Nobilo noted that Daly's girlfriend had apparently taken a swipe at a cameraman.

"It's out duty to bring this coverage to you and inform those of you at home what exactly is going on," said Ian Baker-Finch. "It's unfortunate, to say the least."

It was unfortunate for Daly, but for those watching at home, it was another reason to tune in and see a moment that will certainly go down as one of the most bizarre in the sport's history.

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