With his victory at St. Andrews on Sunday, Tiger Woods earned ABC a robust 7.5 in the overnight Nielsens, 32% higher than the final-round rating in 1999. Like an earthquake that registered 75 on the Richter scale, the British Open's powerful number produced noticeable Nielsen aftershocks. ABC's telecast of the CART Michigan 500, which immediately followed Woods's victory, pulled down a 3.7 rating; the race's best showing during the previous three years had been a 1.9.
Meanwhile, NBC had hoped that an audience entranced by golf would switch over en masse to the U.S. Women's Open that aired about an hour after the British Open ended. Good try—Karrie Webb & Co. mustered a 1.9. That rating was only a slight improvement on '99's final round, which earned a 1.5 against the PGA Memorial on CBS. That number, however, was no doubt depressed because Woods was winning the Memorial and holding onto viewers with an exciting duel against Vijay Singh during the final round.
Most indicative of the breadth of Tiger's hegemony—he has become to sports programming what cleavage is to the USA Network—was what happened between 5 and 6 p.m. While NBC was in its final hour of coverage of the distaff tournament, ABC was airing a one-hour British Open highlights show. The celebration of Tiger's runaway triumph earned a 3.0 in the Nielsens, almost 50% better than the audience for the Women's Open, which earned a 2.1.