Scottie Scheffler Is the Greatest Golfer Alive—and Ratings Poison

Scottie Scheffler’s suspense-free showing in the fourth round of the Masters put the kibosh on hopes for a big TV audience, as CBS’ average delivery of 9.59 million viewers Sunday marked the third-lowest turnout for a deciding round at Augusta in the last 30 years.

According to Nielsen data, Sunday’s round surpassed only the COVID-impacted broadcasts in 2020 (5.59 million viewers) and 2021 (9.54 million). Postponed by the pandemic, the final round of the 2020 Masters aired in a wildly unfamiliar slot on the calendar, as Dustin Johnson won the Green Jacket on Nov. 15. While the 2021 installment returned to its regular April stomping grounds, that tournament was notable for the relative lack of fans in attendance.

Scheffler’s second Masters win in three years was down 20% from CBS’ year-ago deliveries (12.1 million viewers). That said, the Tiffany Network got a huge boost in 2023 courtesy of out-of-home viewers, as the final round was held on Easter Sunday. Per Nielsen, OOH deliveries accounted for 21% of CBS’ audience, whereas this year’s final round only saw a 9% lift thanks to impressions served up in bars, restaurants and other public venues.

Over the course of the 10-year span (2010-2019) before COVID derailed the 2020 Masters, the average draw for a final round was 13.7 million viewers. The record for a Sunday round at Augusta was secured by Tiger Woods in his first-ever major title win, as his scorched-earth performance in 1996 averaged 20.3 million viewers. Woods beat runner-up Tom Kite by 12 strokes.

All told, CBS’ coverage of the final two rounds averaged 8.21 million viewers, down 9% versus the year-ago 8.99 million. Scheffler’s Sunday clincher peaked at 12.6 million viewers. The tourney got off to a hot start on ESPN, as Thursday’s round averaged a nine-year high 3.17 million viewers. Friday’s round averaged 3.68 million viewers, and while that marked a 54% improvement compared to the analogous telecast in 2023, last year’s round was postponed by heavy weather.

As much as Augusta officials and CBS execs would have loved to have put up bigger numbers this weekend, the Masters is one of a very few televised sporting events for which the ratings don’t have an impact on the bottom line. As the broadcast’s spot load is limited to just four minutes of commercial messaging per hour, an allotment shared by the event’s three official sponsors (Mercedes-Benz, AT&T, IBM), the ad buys are not covered by standard ratings guarantees. In other words, since CBS doesn’t promise to hit certain TV metrics, it is not on the hook to make the clients whole with make-goods or audience-deficiency units.

Among the other major TV events that are not subject to ratings guarantees are the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.

More from


Best of