Unless you’ve been living in Antarctica, you know that this is the week that Tiger Woods is returning to competition, where he would undoubtedly roll over the competition en route to yet another title in the WGC Match Play Championship. Well, somebody forgot to give Tim Clark the memo, because he steamrolled Tiger on the back 9 and beat him 4 & 2.
In the process, Clark destroyed all hope that anyone will be watching the final matches this weekend. NBC, which is airing the final two days, was so confident (or perhaps, so desperate) for Tiger would make it to the weekend that it has been airing ads the last few days virtually guaranteeing his appearance on their broadcasts. Oops.
Video of one of Tiger’s ads after the jump.
Here’s one such ad, that is technically just a PGA Tour spot. But NBC tailored the ad to promote its WGC coverage, and has been airing it recently:
Look, I know that Tiger is not only the greatest golfer who has ever lived but is also the only guy who can motivate non-diehards to watch golf, but wasn’t all of this “Tiger is going to come back and destroy everyone” stuff just a little bit presumptious? It’s especially so, given the nature of the event, where anything can happen since the only thing that matters is if you beat the one particular guy you’re playing against.
So, for marketing purposes, was this a bad first event for Tiger’s comeback? NBC was put in a bit of a bind, since there was no guarantee that he’d make it to the weekend. But the prospect of Tiger’s re-emergence on its network was something that NBC couldn’t afford to downplay in its promotions. If this were a regular tour event, the network would’ve nearly been assured of a weekend appearance from Tiger, which would have guaranteed a large audience. Now, they’re stuck with egg on their face for hyping up Tiger’s appearance, which won’t happen.
As for today’s match, Clark won three straight holes on the back 9 to pull ahead by 3 with 5 to play. Tiger then began what looked like a certain rally by holing a bunker shot on 14 to get within 3. Then, this happened (via ESPN):
Woods’ tee shot on the 331-yard 15th hit a cart path right of the fairway and headed into the desert. Only when Woods reached the ball did he learn it had gone over a fence and out of bounds.
He flung his Tiger cover off the driver and walked back to the tee to play his third shot. Woods was so angry that he declined a ride back to the tee. At least he was healthy enough for a long walk.
Woods drove the green on his next shot to 20 feet but missed the par putt, and Clark was again in control.
The loss by Woods means that none of the 4 #1 seeds made it to the third round. Phil Mickelson, a 2-seed and #5 overall player, is the highest-ranked player left in the tourney.
So there you go, NBC. Nobody watches your primetime shows, and now nobody’s going to be watching your golf coverage this weekend either. Enjoy the 36 holes of Luke Donald-Sean O’Hair you get to air on Sunday. Seriously, I wonder how many millions of dollars the network is losing because of the miniscule ratings the tournament will draw this weekend.