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Masters TV Ratings Plummet During Pandemic

Dustin Johnson won the 2020 Masters which had a low TV rating.

The Masters is the premier golf event of the season. Many golf enthusiasts apply to get tickets year after year, rarely getting chosen. Indelible moments have been created at Augusta National, such as Tiger Woods winning the 2019 tournament for his fifth green jacket 11 years after his last major and Phil (Lefty) Mickelson capturing his first major in 2004.

In a normal year, the Masters takes place in early April with the azaleas in full bloom, signaling the start of the golf season for many folks in the Northern Hemisphere following the miserable winter months. However, 2020 was anything but normal and the viewership for the final day of the Masters was reflected in the pandemic year.

Annual TV Ratings For The Masters

In the above graphic provided by statista, you can see the average TV ratings for the final round of the Masters had been relatively stable, ranging from a 7.3 up to 12.9 in 2001, the year Tiger completed the grand slam by winning all four majors. A TV rating is the percentage of households watching that event.

But if you look to the bottom of the graph for the most recent year, 2020, you will see a rating of just 3.4 for the championship round, which saw Dustin Johnson win his first Masters Tournament.

What Factors Played Into The Low Rating?

The most obvious place to start when contemplating such a low viewership for the sport’s most iconic tournament is the COVID-19 pandemic. Most sports saw a dip in viewership, from the Stanley Cup Final to the NBA Finals, and even the Super Bowl was not spared. Some will say they were simply burnt out, while others didn’t enjoy watching the sports without fans in attendance and with fake crowd noise being pumped in.

Compounding the issue, the Masters normally takes place in April when the sports schedule is relatively quiet, with the NHL and NBA regular season coming to a close and the MLB season opening up. In 2020, the tournament took place in the second week of November, which is right in the heart of the NFL season. That meant the Masters would be going head-to-head in Sunday afternoon prime time.

As well, Dustin Johnson’s record-setting -20 score gave him a five-stroke margin of victory, the largest since Woods won in 1997 and set the benchmark by winning the Masters by 12 strokes.

Slight Bounce-Back In 2021

With a somewhat return to normal in 2021, we did see an uptick in TV ratings for the Masters not included in the above graphic. The tournament had an average rating of 5.5 on the final day and it was the highest-rated golf event of the season. There were some reasons for yet another low-rated Masters.

Firstly, the winner, Hideki Matsuyama, had a sizable four-stroke lead heading into the final day and finished one up in the end. Also, big names such as Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and reigning champion Dustin Johnson failed to make the cut.

Let’s hope in April 2022 that the field will be full and competitive heading into the final day with a full crowd and the TV ratings climb back to normal.