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Tiger's fault? ESPN's ratings down 28 percent for Masters opening round

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf

This year's Masters tournament doesn't include the wattage of Tiger Woods' star power and it's being reflected in the initial television ratings. ESPN announced on Friday that its ratings for Thursday's opening round were down 28 percent from the same time slot in 2013.  

Last year's first day saw an average of 2.8 million viewers on the Worldwide Leader while 2014's opening round only saw an average of two million people inside the tent. 

From an ESPN press release:

ESPN’s live telecast of the first round of the 2014 Masters Tournament on Thursday, April 10, attracted an average audience of 2 million viewers with a 1.5 U.S. household rating, according to Nielsen Media fast national data. ESPN’s telecast aired from 3-7:30 p.m. ET.

Viewership peaked at 2.4 million between 6:30-7 p.m. while the ratings peak was a 1.7 between 6-6:30 p.m. The ratings and viewership declined from ESPN’s 2013 first round telecast, which earned a 2.0 rating with 2.8 million viewers.

As Ed Sherman of the Sherman Report notes, it's not exactly fair to make the comparison because Woods played early during last year's opening round and only his last few holes were featured on ESPN. We'll be able to draw better lines when Friday's numbers come out since ESPN's second-round broadcast in 2013 featured all the Tiger one could want.

Something else to consider: The number of tablets and high-speed  connections have increased, so more golf fans may be taking to the Internet to watch via Masters.com on their laptops and iPads. Masters.com does not release viewer numbers so we don't know how many people are taking that route. 

Still, with the world's biggest golf star on the mend from back surgery, it'd be silly to suggest his absence wouldn't have a big impact on the number of casual fans watching the season's first major. The only question is how big of an impact it will have as the weekend continues and the broadcasts move to CBS.

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports.. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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