Last weekend, CBS had its own version of Mission: Impossible. A
week after Tiger Woods made history (and drew an estimated 40.1
million viewers on Sunday) by winning the Masters for his fourth
consecutive major title, CBS somehow had to excite golf fans
about the WorldCom Classic, a Tigerless tournament whose
defending champ was Stewart Cink. It was the equivalent of
promoting a concert by the E Street Band without that Springsteen
guy.

During the two-month stretch between the Masters and the U.S.
Open, this will become a familiar challenge. Because Woods is
scheduled to be playing sporadically (next at the Verizon Byron
Nelson Classic in May), networks won't have the instant cachet
and the truckloads of viewers he brings. (On average in 2000 a
tournament in which Woods was in contention had a rating nearly
115% higher than one in which he was not.) So how does a network
go about covering an event without him?

At the WorldCom, which Jose Coceres won in a playoff on Monday
morning, CBS took a two-headed approach. Before its Saturday
coverage, it ran an hourlong retrospective special entitled
Raising the Bar which described 2000 as "Tiger 2K" and overflowed
with fawning testimonials to Woods. Once play began, however,
Tiger became a nonfactor. On Sunday it took one hour and 27
minutes before his name was uttered (in a taped Masters segment),
and he wasn't brought up again until the end of the tournament,
and then only incidentally.

"We weren't ignoring that Tiger wasn't here, but we had a story
to tell," said announcer Jim Nantz after the final round. "I'm
not going to create synthetic drama, and I'm not going to worry
about Tiger Woods when a guy like Coceres is walking up to the
18th green."

For last weekend CBS's WorldCom coverage averaged a 2.6 in the
preliminary Nielsens--11.9% lower than its numbers for the same
event a year ago, that was also Tigerless. The network caught a
tough break when weather delayed the final round, bumping the
playoff to TNN in the Eastern and Central time zones. Would there
have been such a shift had Tiger been in that playoff? "We would
have made the same decision," says Rob Correa, a CBS Sports
senior vice president. "It wouldn't have mattered who was
playing."

Right, and nobody would rather see Springsteen.

--C.B.

"We weren't ignoring the fact that Tiger wasn't here, but we had
a story to tell," says CBS's Nantz.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)