WHEN JACK VICKERS
canceled the International three weeks ago, he laid the corpse at the feet of
Tiger Woods, saying, "If something isn't done, you're not going to have a
Tour. Right now, it's a one-man show" (GOLF PLUS, Feb. 19). But the
long-held belief that Woods alone drives ratings has taken a hit so far this
year. Woods has played only twice, though at press time full ratings were not
yet available for the Accenture Match Play. At the Buick Invitational
viewership was down 8.2% on Sunday from the 2006 figure, even though Woods
started in contention and rallied on the back nine to win. (It is still the
most-watched golf broadcast of the season so far.) Meanwhile, Sunday ratings at
Tiger-less Pebble Beach were up 19.0% for Phil Mickelson's cruise to victory,
and they were up again the next week (31.1% over '06) when Mickelson lost the
Nissan Open in a playoff to Charles Howell. The only other event that was
broadcast on network television, the FBR Open, in which Woods didn't play and
Mickelson (right) missed the cut, posted ratings that were down 14.4%.... Golf
Channel had a breakthrough last Thursday, when 989,000 households watched the
third round of the Match Play, besting the 895,000 who watched on ESPN in '06.
It was the first time Golf Channel has beaten an '06 telecast of any sort. But
the triumph comes with a big asterisk. The Golf Channel number is the combined
viewership of its live afternoon telecast and its prime-time rerun, the only
measurement the channel will release or allow Nielsen to report.... Golf
Channel's weekday telecasts of the Match Play began at noon, Tucson time. On
those days Woods teed off at 12:02, 12:00 and 12:00. Coincidence?
? WOODS AND
Mickelson passed by each other in more than just the ratings. Before the first
round of the Match Play the righthanded Woods and the lefty Mickelson warmed up
back to back but did not acknowledge each other, much less exchange a word.
After 10 minutes Mickelson circled behind Woods and issued a brief "good
luck" as he passed. Woods answered with a briefer greeting. No eye contact
was made.... The Tour must've been happy with its decision to move the Match
Play to the Gallery in Tucson. La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., the
former site of the event, had been plagued by bad weather and last week
experienced .26 inches of rain, and the temperature never rose above 65? all
week.... No doubt Fred Funk likes the Mayakoba Classic more than the Match
Play. After his win at the Mayakoba (making the 50-year-old the second player
after Craig Stadler to win a PGA Tour event after winning a Champions tour
event), he's 1--0 in the former and 0--7 in the latter.
? SUGGESTED WOODS
BABY NAME OF THE WEEK Seven.
? For Alan
Shipnuck's Hot and Not column, go to SI.com/golf.