Golf wins with Tiger Woods back at the Masters
(CNN Money) -- Tiger Woods is back at The Masters for the first time since 2015. That's good for golf.
"When Tiger plays, fans tune in, it's as simple as that," said Jon Stainer, managing director for Neilsen Sports.
His return to Augusta National Golf Club Thursday comes after years spent struggling with injuries.
This season, Woods appears resurgent. He's done well in his last three tournaments and comes to the Masters with momentum.
The Masters has always been a sweet spot for Woods.
He's won the tournament four times and finished in the top 10 on nine of his other appearances. His return, coupled with the prestige of the Masters, will mean even bigger returns for the game of golf.
"His return to fitness and form will [draw] swaths of viewers around the world to tune in and increase golf's following dramatically this weekend," Stainer said.
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Stainer noted that Woods also gets more time on screen than any other player, and sponsors are aware of that disparity.
Woods earned 580 minutes of exposure during tournaments, according to Neilsen, by mid-March. That's more than double the average of the next 10 golfers when ranked by exposure. His dominance in screen time comes despite the fact that Woods competed in fewer tournaments.
Bridgestone Golf, which has partnered with Woods since 2016, can attest to the effect. The company said that with Woods golfing well this year, retailers are selling 15% more Bridgestone golf balls than they did over the same period last year.
When it comes to sponsors, Neilsen ranks Woods as the top revenue generator in the golfing world. He's brought in $1.4 million more in media value than Jason Day, the golfer who ranks next behind Woods in exposure.
His presence at a golf tournament also brings in more viewers and more social media engagement.
In the four tournaments in which Woods finished in the top 25 this year, viewership was boosted by 93% compared with the previous year.
The popularity of the Masters will only increase Woods' effect. Not only is it the most-watched golf tournament in the world but it has the fewest numbers of players of any other Major. The tournament also has tighter parameters for on-screen sponsors, so brands that are shown on players' apparel and gear get a bigger boost.
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Everyone, from sponsors to fans to the sport itself, wins when Woods golfs. Everyone except fans hoping to score tickets to The Masters.
Ticket prices are nearly the most expensive they've ever been. They're second only to the prices for last year's tournament when Sergio Garcia, 38, had a remarkable run and won the Masters.
Garcia, a one-time teen golf phenom who had never won a major, captivated audiences in 2017 when he finally marched to victory. His long-awaited success drove prices up with ticket averages reaching over $3,000.
Were it not for that, this year's ticket prices would be setting records.
The average ticket price for the 2018 Masters is $2,458 on sites like TicketIQ. The average set in 2017 was $2,593. This year's prices will likely continue to rise if Woods plays well in early rounds.
Prices for four-day "badges" to the 2018 tournament have skyrocketed.
Online ticket marketplace TicketCity noted that four-day badges are selling for record highs.
It's the first time since 2015 -- the last time Woods played -- that prices have gone over $6,000. The average price for the package is over $7,000 and one buyer spent over $21,000 for a set of four-day passes.
Ticket Club, another reseller, said it's seen prices surge nearly eight times from what they were a week ago when four-day badges cost $953.
While fewer fans buy these types of packages, resellers have appropriately dubbed the surge "the Tiger effect."
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