Tiger Woods helps Honda Classic attendance, TV ratings soar

They say Tiger moves the needle.

Looking at the overall attendance figures for the Honda Classic and NBC's ratings for it's final round coverage Sunday, he doesn't just move it, he destroys it.

NBC's golf coverage of the Honda Classic's final day drew an overnight rating up 78 percent from last year - and the event's best overnight in a decade, according to USA Today.

The tournament, played at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, drew 161,700 fans between Monday's Dolphins pro-am and Sunday's final round. That number is an almost 45 percent increase over the 111,950 who attended last year and is more than a 60-percent increase over the 101,200 who attended the Honda two years ago.

Honda officials said Monday they are looking at whether they can add more fan seating and pavilions for next year. The private hospitality areas at The Bear Trap, the stretch of holes from Nos. 15-17, sold out Sunday for the first time in the tournament's six-year history at PGA National.

It was expected that ratings for the Honda would increase because Woods, a new Jupiter Island resident, entered the field for the first time as a professional.

What wasn't expected was his improbable, must-see TV comeback Sunday from nine shots back to get within a stroke of leader Rory McIlroy, who ended up winning the tournament.

Woods shot a 62 on Sunday, his best final round ever, and McIlroy, the charismatic, mop-topped 22-year-old from Northern Ireland, held Tiger at bay by taming the tough Champion course, and, more specifically, the treacherous Bear Trap.

Add to that, McIlroy became the world's No. 1-ranked golfer with his victory.

The drama Sunday helped NBC draw a 3.2 overnight. That translates into 3.2 percent of TV households in the 56 urban markets measured for overnights, according to USA Today.

The 78 percent increase is not only up from last year's coverage, but also from comparable coverage of the Honda for each of the last three years.

Sunday's rating peaked at 4.3 between 5:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m., when McIlroy was holding on to a two-shot lead with Tiger in the clubhouse, USA Today reported.

Tiger and McIlroy will play in this week's World Golf Championship at Doral, along with other such stars as Phil Mickelson and former No. 1 Luke Donald.

Similar to coverage of the Honda, Doral will be broadcast by the Golf Channel Thursday and Friday and NBC Saturday and Sunday.

Honda Classic Executive Director Kenneth R. Kennerly thanked the players, specifically McIlroy, a part-time Jupiter resident who "first came here four years ago and has come back every year and brought other top players like Lee Westwood," and Tiger, who Kennerly said "created a buzz on the property and in the community unlike anything that anybody has ever seen."

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