A Tiger Woods viewing guide for the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Tiger and Arnie in 2013 after his eighth win at Bay Hill.

PGA Tour ratings are soaring and there’s one very specific reason why. This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational should be another boost.

The PGA Tour is rarely, if ever, going to come close to competing with the NCAA Tournament. The tourney is one of the two or three top events in sports. It’s a national appointment and rightly so.

But golf, or more accurately, Tiger Woods, might throw some jabs at the heavyweight NCAA tourney this week. Happy days are here again for the PGA Tour ratings, thanks exclusively to Mr. Woods. Last week’s Valspar Championship, which was once a sleepy and forgotten stop on the Florida swing, landed the biggest rating of any non-Masters round in the last two years. That includes the final rounds of the last two US Opens, British Opens, and PGA Championships.

If you’re a network executive, you’re happy about the big number but the Valspar, based solely on Tiger, exceeding the game’s biggest events also should be a little disconcerting, no? The Valspar’s final round on Sunday, with Tiger contending for his 80th win on the PGA Tour, landed a 5.1 rating. That was the strongest sports broadcast of the day, blowing out the Selection Show, Nascar (2.7), and the NBA on ABC (1.8). Tiger’s Saturday round, which probably turned the mania up the highest of the week during a birdie run that put him in the lead, also set records for a third round.

Now Tiger is back and at a place that he’s owned throughout his career. Last week’s runner-up finish has everyone wanting more Tiger, and given his form, he’s now the favorite by a wide margin to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tiger has eight career wins at Bay Hill but he’s not played here since 2013, which he won. The absence has come due to a mix of injuries and the chipping yips break. In the intervening years, we lost the host, Palmer, and Woods indicated that this would be an extra special week at a special place for him.

The player we’ve seen in his last two starts in Florida is absolutely a player that can contend and win this week. The contention is really what the networks want most — Tiger in the hunt on the weekend will do numbers no matter what, even with basketball games on other stations. We got that perfect storm last week and it seems well within reach this week. It would be a massive boost for the game heading into the Masters, which is now just three weeks away.

Golf Channel and NBC will have the coverage again all week from Bay Hill. This is a home game for Golf Channel, which was co-founded by Palmer and is just down the road in Orlando. The event has an increased significance for the two networks for obvious reasons and they typically pull out all the bells and whistles for coverage. The window for the first two rounds will be an expanded four hours, while the weekend windows will be as wide as 6.5 hours.

PGA Tour Live will have its usual full slate of streaming coverage all four days. Woods is on the featured groups stream Thursday morning, and that will, as you might expect, do some serious numbers. Last week in Tampa, their streaming service had momentary break when Tiger’s round really started peaking and he took the solo lead on Friday morning. The app went down in different areas on both mobile, desktop, and Apple TV, prompting the easy joke that Tiger Woods had broken the Internet.

This week, we’re hopefully prepared for the potential spike when Tiger gets it going in Orlando. It’s one of the more anticipated APIs in years. Here’s your coverage schedule for the entire week at Bay Hill:

Thursday’s first-round coverage

Television:

2 to 6 p.m. ET — Golf Channel

Online streams:

7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Live starts with coverage from range and opening holes

• 7:30 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. — Free PGA Tour live stream on Twitter

Featured Groups (PGA Tour Live subscription required)

  • 8:11 a.m. ET — Bubba Watson / Patrick Reed / Justin Rose
  • 8:23 a.m. ET — Tiger Woods / Jason Day / Hideki Matsuyama

3 to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Live featured holes Nos. 14 and 16 coverage (No subscription required)

2 to 6 p.m. — Golf Channel simulcast stream

Radio:

12 to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 92/208 and streamed here)

Friday’s second-round coverage

Television:

2 to 6 p.m. ET — Golf Channel

Online streams:

7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Live starts with coverage from range and opening holes

• 7:30 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. — Free PGA Tour live stream on Twitter

Featured Groups (PGA Tour Live subscription required)

  • 8:11 a.m. ET — Henrik Stenson / Adam Scott / Tommy Fleetwood
  • 8:23 a.m. ET — Rory McIlroy / Marc Leishman / Rickie Fowler

3 to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Live featured holes Nos. 14 and 16 coverage (No subscription required)

2 to 6 p.m. — Golf Channel simulcast stream

Radio:

12 to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 92/208 and streamed here)

Saturday’s third-round coverage

Television:

12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET — Golf Channel

2:30 to 6 p.m. ET — NBC

Online streams:

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Live featured groups/holes coverage

12:30 to 6 p.m. — Golf Channel / NBC Sports LiveExtra simulcast stream

Radio:

1 to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 92/208 and streamed here)

Sunday’s final-round coverage

Television:

Noon to 2 p.m. ET — Golf Channel

2 to 6:30 p.m. ET — NBC

Online streams:

10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. — PGA Tour Live featured groups/holes coverage

Noon to 6 p.m. — Golf Channel / NBC Sports LiveExtra simulcast stream

Radio:

1 to 6:30 p.m. — PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 92/208 and streamed here)

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