TIger Woods' return creates renewed golf interest

TIger Woods' return creates renewed golf interest

June 25th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Golf

Tiger Woods tosses a ball around during practice Tuesday for the Quicken Loans National golf tournament this week.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Rubin Jacoway practiced his chipping and putting with his son Monday at Brainerd Golf Course.

They'll be parked in front of a television later this week when Tiger Woods makes his first start since back surgery that sidelined him since March 9.

"It's great that he's back," Jacoway said. "I think the game needs a spark. Plus, he has a mission to accomplish."

Woods missed the Masters and the U.S. Open. Television ratings for both tournaments suffered, in part to the absence of Woods and a lack of action in the final round of both majors.

"I'm going to watch on Thursday," Jacoway said. "I want to see if he'll hurt his back again."

In April, the first-round Masters ratings on ESPN were down 33 percent from last year. The final-round ratings on CBS were down 24 percent from the 2013 tournament and the lowest since 2004.

The final round at Augusta lacked drama from the likes of Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy with Bubba Watson beating Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three strokes.

The ratings for the U.S. Open -- Martin Kaymer's cruise to victory -- were even worse.

"Heck, no, I didn't watch," Wes Moore, the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga point guard, said while carrying his wife's clubs after a round on Friday. "If Tiger's not in it, I'm not watching. And I'm a sports fan."

The U.S. Open final-round ratings were down 46 percent from last year and the 3.3 rating is the lowest on record.

Jim Jackson, a member at Council Fire, decided to play an extra nine holes last Sunday -- it's not rare for him to play 27 holes on a Sunday -- instead of watching the final round.

"It's the first time I've missed the final round of the U.S. Open in my memory," Jackson said. "I like to watch it. But the outcome was known. It would have been a great tournament if not for Martin Kaymer."

Jackson's decision had more to do with the eight-shot victory than whether Woods was playing.

"I like to watch competitive golf," he said while watching the Travelers Championship on one screen and the U.S. Women's Open on another. "To me, it's not about the individual, it's about the match.

"I'll watch this week, but it's not about Tiger, it's about the game."

The game should get a boost. The most popular player in the game will return to competition in the Quicken Loans National (formerly known as the AT&T) at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Woods made the announcement last Thursday that he would play in the tournament that benefits his charity foundation.

"I knew something important was going on when my phone was suddenly blowing up with texts and emails asking me for tickets," Steve Durante, president of Congressional, told PressBoxDC.com. "I got the official word from Tiger that he was playing, and that was great news for golf fans everywhere.

"As for us, well, I know that ticket sales will be very strong this week, because everyone can't wait to see Tiger back."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.