May 14 2018

For a lot of golf fans, it's as annoying as a three-putt or maybe waiting for Kevin Na to hit a shot.

In those tournaments when Tiger Woods might not have a prayer of winning, he still dominates the coverage. The majority rules when it comes to who gets on the air and there is no question Woods drives television ratings.

When he contended at the Valspar Championship in March, ratings for the final round were up 190 percent over the year before. They were the highest ratings for a non-major in five years (going back to Woods' win at The Players Championship in 2013).

It is the very fact that Woods is such a polarizing figure that sees him show up on your television screen as much as he does. There seem to be as many fans who tune in to see him struggle as there are to see him have success.

All this makes his return to form of late interesting timing for the PGA Tour. Its deals with CBS and NBC/Golf Channel run through 2021 (the Tour had a chance to opt out of its deals with CBS and NBC last year, but decided to stay the course).

Woods' influence is making the Tour an attractive commodity again. It remains to be seen how much of a factor he can be for the next three years (he will be 46 in 2021), but nobody expected him to come back from multiple back surgeries and have the success he has had. Does anyone think he might not be able to be a factor on Tour into the beginning of a new TV deal?

Coming off his weekend performance at The Players Championship, where he went 65-69 and finished in a tie for 11th (nobody had a prayer of catching winner Webb Simpson, who had a seven-shot lead going into Sunday), the hype around Woods is only going to grow.

"I'm not that far off from winning golf tournaments," Woods told reporters after Sunday's round.

Woods moved to second place through 13 holes on Sunday to get within four shots of Simpson, but things unraveled after a 354-yard tee shot on the par-4 14th. He spun his wedge off the false front, made bogey and started going in the wrong direction.

That drive is indicative of how far Woods has come in his comeback. He's erased any doubts about his ability, even at his age and what he's been through with his back, when it comes to having enough swing speed to contend. His swing speed was clocked at 129 mph at the Valspar, the fastest on Tour to that point in the season.

It would have been a remarkable statement just four months ago but it now seems inevitable: it's not a matter of if Woods can win again, but when.

Imagine the ratings when that tournament comes. The honchos at the PGA Tour HQ in Ponte Vedra most certainly are.

FROM THE FRINGE: This hasn't been a good season so far for Hamilton's Mackenzie Hughes, who won the RSM Classic in 2016 and got as high as 104th in the world rankings. Since then, he slipped to 216th. He started the season missing his first eight cuts. He's made four out of 17, but two in a row now after playing the weekend at The Players. Maybe his season can get going in the right direction after he got a chance to play with Woods, his idol, on Saturday. Hughes held his own in the face of massive crowds as Woods was shooting 65. Hughes had a 68. With his round of 67 Friday, it marked the first time he's put two sub-70 rounds together this season. … Woods moved up 12 spots from No. 92 to No. 80 after his finish at The Players. He was 674th in the world after he withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February 2017. He was No.1 or No. 2 in the world from 1997-2010. … Other Canadians in the world rankings: Adam Hadwin, 45th; Graham DeLaet, 153; Nick Taylor, 242; Austin Connelly, 259. … There were 53 balls in the water on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, down from 69 last year. … Following a week off, the LPGA Tour is back at it with the Kingsmill Championship presented by Geico in Williamsburg, VA. Brooke Henderson used her week off to help Kevin Haime raise close to $50,000 for his Kids to the Course initiative. The money raised is used to buy memberships at area clubs for juniors. … Justin Thomas, who finished T11 at The Players, became the 21st player to reach world No. 1 since the official ranking was introduced in 1986. Dustin Johnson had been No. 1 for 64 weeks. … I can't see the way Simpson holds his putter as anything but anchoring. Maybe I'm old school but the rule shouldn't allow the bracing of the club against the arm. The only contact should be with the hands. But that's just me.

For more opinion with which you can disagree follow me on Twitter @CJ_Stevenson



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