Tiger’s back in action today after an eight-month hiatus following his U.S. Open playoff win and knee surgery.
Golf, a sport largely low on compelling personalities, obviously can’t wait for Woods’s red-shirted, fist-pumping return. His dramatic victory over Rocco Mediate last June at Torrey Pines, gave him his 14th major championship and ESPN a cable ratings record for the sport.
Now, Golf Channel, which has three days of linear TV exclusivity with the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championships lined up through Friday, stands to benefit big time with the Nielsens. NBC picks up the action on the weekend.
Unless, of course, Eldrick ain’t ready and somehow flames out in the first round against Brendan Jones, the Aussie ranked 64th and last in the field.
But even if it’s just for one day — an unlikely scenario — Golf Channel should generate high-ratings with its live and primetime encore coverage of Woods. Tiger’s tale also serves as a great promotional vehicle for the network’s upcoming show in which Woods’s swing coach Hank Haney tries to make TNT bad boy Charles Barkley look not so turrible (cue Frank Caliendo) on the golf course.
Think about it, the timing of Woods’s comeback couldn’t be better to hype the seven-episode series, The Haney Project, which tees off March 2 at 9 p.m. For its part, Golf is billing it as part of “The Good, The Bad and The Barkley” Monday night lineup.
Barkley’s laughable swing (think Ed Norton addressing the ball, “Hello, ball” in The Honeymooners) is so ugly, he no doubt needs many more lessons. On-air, that will depend on whether how many people tune in.
Sir Charles’ recent off-camera behavior may have helped that cause, piquing the curiosity of those who otherwise wouldn’t be concerned whether he hooks, slices or follows through.
In the mode that any press is good publicity, Barkley has certainly been in the limelight more than usual of late. He was arrested for DUI on New Year’s Eve, after he ran a stop sign in Scottsdale, Ariz. en route to meeting a woman so they could re-enact a sex act (insert your own putter joke here).
He was suspended from his Inside The NBA gig on TNT for six weeks, missing the All-Star Weekend in Phoenix. He returned to the air last Thursday Feb. 19, issuing an apology and a speech about he’s committing to being much smarter about drinking and driving in the future.
For this transgression, which may or may not sway him from his Alabama gubernatorial aspirations, Barkley, beginning March 21 will spend five days in jail on two misdemeanor drunk driving charges. He will also pay a $2,000 fine and attend alcohol rehab treatment.
Whether or not the basketball Hall of Famer will be able to screen in it the clink was unclear at press time. However, the combination of Barkley’s knucklehead behavior and Woods’s return is the perfect storm for garnering attention to Golf’s swing show.