Start with a Tiger, add a dash of Lefty and throw in some suspense for good measure. That was the recipe for a tasty rating for NBC when it telecast the PGA's Tour Championship this past weekend. With a resurgent Phil Mickelson using his old flair on and around the greens to fire a closing 65 and win the event, and Tiger Woods fending off foes to finish second and thus capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million first prize, NBC generated a 3.3 rating for its Sunday finale.
That was nearly twice the Nielsen number of last year's Sunday round at Atlanta. That event featured a playoff in which Camilo Villegas beat Sergio Garcia, but it lacked Tiger (who was convalescing from knee surgery) and was dragged down by a drama-free cruise to the Cup by Vijay Singh.
While this year's rating is small compared to the Nielsens for the Tour's U.S.-based majors, it is impressive considering the competition: a full slate of NFL games and meaningful September baseball, including the New York Yankees' division-clinching win on Sunday over their archivals, the Boston Red Sox. Moreover, on Saturday, the Tour Championship, shown on tape-delay and going up against baseball and college football, did a solid 2.4, up from a 1.3 in '08.
One major question about the FedEx Cup was whether it could lure a significant number of viewers against September sports heavyweights. The answer now seems to be a resounding yes.