Latest Masters Viewing Figures Are More Evidence LIV Golf And PGA Tour Need To Reunite

ESPN's viewing figures for the first two rounds at Augusta National are encouraging, but they highlight how vital it is for the men's elite game to reunite

Tiger Woods after the third round of The Masters
The best viewing figures since 2018 on ESPN watched Tiger Woods make the cut at The Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After a string of disappointing TV viewing figures for elite men’s golf events over recent months, there is finally some good news – ESPN has reported that its first two days of Masters coverage attracted the best average viewership for its 3pm ET telecasts for six years.

According to the broadcaster, there was an average audience of 3.4 million over the two days, with 3.2 million tuning into coverage of Thursday’s first round at Augusta National, and that figure swelling to 3.6 million on Friday, when 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods completed 23 holes after thunderstorms delayed the start of the tournament.

ESPN also aired the conclusion of the first round on Friday, with 922,000 watching between 7.45am and 10am, while there was a peak of 3.9 million during a 15-minute spell from 5.30pm.

The second-round figures are particularly encouraging as they represent a 69% increase over the previous year, when 2.1 million watched as LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka opened up a lead.

On the subject of LIV Golf, the numbers offer the latest evidence that viewers are more likely to be engaged when the best from the big-money League and its PGA Tour counterparts are competing at the same event.

One of the early signs in the year that armchair fans were losing interest came with coverage of February’s Genesis Invitational, when 5% fewer watched Hideki Matsuyama close out victory than Jon Rahm’s win in 2023, although, admittedly that wouldn’t have been helped by the withdrawal of Woods in the second round due to illness.

If that offered some hope that it was a blip, it didn’t last long, with further disappointing figures coming for Peter Malnati’s win at the Valspar Championship and even Scottie Scheffler’s thrilling victory at The Players Championship.

Scottie Scheffler with The Players Championship trophy

Viewing figures were even down on 2023 for The Players Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finally, there were signs things may be picking up at the Valero Texas Open the week before the Masters, with Sports Business Journal's Josh Carpenter reporting that the final round saw figures up 21% from the previous year.

However, in general, the trend has been undeniable, and it highlights that the game needs to come back together, and soon.

That’s something players from both sides of the divide have picked up on. The same week as the Valero Texas Open, LIV Golf’s Bryson DeChambeau said at its Miami event that “too many people are losing interest,” while one of the game’s big needle movers, Rory McIlroy, addressed his concerns on disappointing TV viewing figures at TPC San Antonio.

He said: “I know this isn’t a be-all, end-all, but if you look at the TV ratings of the PGA Tour this year, they’re down 20 percent across the board. That’s a fifth. That’s big.

“That’s where I said like things need a correction and things are unsustainable because I’m close with NBC and the people that really care about these things and the people that tune in to watch golf. You know, 20% is a pretty jarring number this year.

"I would say the numbers on LIV aren’t great either in terms of the people tuning in. I just think with the fighting and everything that’s went on over the past couple years, people are just getting really fatigued of it and it’s turning people off men’s professional golf, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.”

Rory McIlroy takes a shot at the Valero Texas Open

Rory McIlroy voiced his concerns about lower TV viewing figures at the Valero Texas Open

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After the final round of The Masters, Woods was asked how a meeting between LIV Golf governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and PGA Tour players in March had gone. He responded: “I don't know if we're closer, but certainly we're headed in the right direction. That was a very positive meeting, and I think both sides came away from the meeting feeling positive.”

As the viewing figures from ESPN show, the sooner a deal can be agreed to reunite the men’s professional game, the better.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.