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How will Tiger's injury affect TV ratings at the Masters?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Tiger Woods announced on Tuesday that after undergoing back surgery the previous day, he'd be skipping the Masters for the first time in 20 years.

That's pretty bad news for most Tiger fans -- for most golf fans, really -- but it's also pretty interesting news. Interesting because, for the first time since 1994, we're going to see exactly what a Tiger-less Masters looks like. And with his injuries mounting and his career seemingly at another turning point, this information could prove important moving forward.

Related: 'Is it time to look beyond Tiger and Phil?'

Unlike his recent U.S. Open performances -- which feature everything from a win in 2008 to a did not play in 2011 -- Tiger's Masters record is consistently solid. Since 2007, he has only finished outside of the top six once. In turn, CBS has been able to count on Woods to help draw in TV viewers for its final-round coverage.

Here's how the Masters and U.S. Open Sunday television ratings look during that time:

140401-Masters-us open-ratings-480.jpg
So, will Tiger's absence affect ratings this year? It's hard to estimate exactly how much of an effect it might have, but it's unlikely that it won't have any effect. As you can see above, the Masters' lowest rating in 2012 corresponded with Tiger's worst-ever professional finish (T-40) at the Augusta National -- something widely highlighted in the event's aftermath.It was a 1.5 point drop-off from the previous year, and when he was back in contention in 2013, ratings spiked more than two points. A two-point drop, then, on Sunday in 2014 seems a reasonable estimation.

Related: The Fox & The Peacock

There's a similar trend at play in the U.S. Open ratings. The lower ratings NBC pulled in for a Tiger-less Open at Congressional in 2011 look worse because of the two West Coast Opens that surround it. Still, it winds up being a full point lower than the 2013 U.S. Open -- another East Coast venue where Tiger Woods finished T-32.

Bottom line: Augusta National may be all-powerful, but even it may be vulnerable to the Tiger-TV effect.

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