Woods will team with his 12-year-old son, Charlie for a second-year running in Saturday’s start to the two-round PNC Championship in suburban Orlando.
While the Woods’ generated enormous interest a year ago, the soon-to-be 46-year-old is set to send TV ratings off the scale teeing-up in a first event since last February’s near-fatal car crash in L. A.
Media interest has been so huge, organisers have set up a secondary media centre within the host Ritz Carlton hotel.
PNC or Pittsburgh National Corporation has some 2,300 branches worldwide which will be reduced by 280 by the close of next year but that won’t affect worldwide exposure for the bank.
PNC’s Lou Cestello, talking with golf.com, revealed organisers were taken by surprise when Woods tweeted on December 8th about he and Charlie’s participation.
“Like everyone else, we were watching social media”, said Cestello. “It seemed like it was a game-day decision for lack of a better term, or maybe a couple of weeks before game day. But we had our fingers crossed.”
Irish Golfer Magazine reported days earlier that event organisers were holding one place in the 20-team field open in the likelihood Woods would tee-up but then catching major sports media by surprise with word Woods would be teeing-up in the Euro 960,450 event.
Cestello said: “It’s almost immeasurable. We’ll have to see what the TV ratings end up being. Tiger just kind of blows the lid off it in terms of the popularity”.
When Woods and son teed-up a year ago an average of 1.5 million US TV viewers tuned in over the two days, and that tripled the number who’d sat through the weekend’s golf a year earlier.
Unlike last year, the big question will be if Woods’ body is up to 36-holes just 10-months after the thought of nearly having his severely damaged right leg amputated.
However, if the sight of Woods hitting balls on the range during the recent Hero World Challenge is any indication, then he should be fine on a flat, easy-walking Lake course at the Ritz Carlton. As well, Woods should be permitted to use a motorised cart given it is not a regular PGA Tour or World Ranking counting event.
Cestello added: “We’re always watching TV ratings and numbers and trying to measure everything we can. We expect there to be a big bump this year.
“It’s already been the highlight of our nine-year history with the tournament that Tiger is making his comeback here. Sometimes you forget in a position like ours, when you’re a sponsor, that we’re regular people and golf fans as well.
“Just to see the level of excitement on the internet when Tiger was hitting balls on the range in Albany a couple of weeks back and how the internet lit up, it has us super-excited for PNC, but super-excited for Tiger as well.”
Among those sure to be watching from his Orlando home is Graeme McDowell, who probably summed up Woods’ return best.
McDowell said: “He (Tiger) is golf. He is the PGA Tour”.