Woods sends TV ratings soaring

The cable television sports network, owned by the Walt Disney Co, said on Friday that the audience was a 47 percent increase from 2009 when 3.4 million viewers watched the first day of the Masters.

Analysts had expected viewership to rise because of public interest in Woods stemming from his admitted marital infidelity. The telecast surpassed a 2008 US Open Championship playoff, also on ESPN, that drew less than 4.8 million viewers. "There obviously was a big buildup to his return to the tour, and it brought in a much larger audience beyond the core golf fan," said an ESPN spokesman.

Thursday's large audience was still only a fraction of the 20.3 million viewers CBS drew when Woods won his first Masters in 1997. But CBS is a major network, and weekend viewership of the sport will almost always be much higher given much of the golf audience is working during the weekdays. If comments posted on social networking websites are any indication, Woods may soon be out of the woods when it comes to his image problems.
Research firm Viralheat said 70 percent of comments about Woods on such websites on Thursday were positive.

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