Turner: 'The Match' was most-watched golf event in cable history

The sports void is real.

Those figuring out how to fill it are reaping the rewards.

After ESPN announced record viewership numbers for its 10-part Michael Jordan series “The Last Dance,” Turner Sports recorded similar ratings for a golf exhibition.

Massive ratings for exhibition golf

The network group announced on Monday that Sunday’s airing of “The Match” drew an average of 5.8 million viewers, rivaling ratings recorded by “The Last Dance,” the most-watched documentary in ESPN history. At its peak, 6.3 million people tuned in.

Those ratings set a record for a cable golf telecast, according to Turner Sports. That means more people tuned in to watch Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady play for charity than have ever watched an early round cable broadcast of a major.

For example, weekday coverage of the U.S. Open has broadcast on FS1 while early rounds at the Masters have aired on ESPN in recent years.

A golf exhibition drew higher ratings than early-round coverage of the Masters or the U.S. Open, according to Turner Sports. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The star power on Sunday was huge — as big as it gets in sports. But those numbers are still staggering for a casual competition with no real stakes attached.

By comparison, “The Last Dance” drew an average of 5.6 million live viewers for 10 episodes over a five-week run. The first episode that aired on April 19 drew 6.3 million viewers, which smashed ESPN’s previous record for a documentary held by 2012’s “30 for 30” Bo Jackson feature “You Don’t Know Bo,” which drew 3.6 million viewers.

Sports fans are famished

The premiere of “The Last Dance” was the first taste of anything resembling fresh sports on TV in more than a month after the COVID-19 shutdown. That it was a decades-old story with a known outcome didn’t matter.

People were starving for sports. And they still are. Which explains in part why sports leagues like MLB and the NBA are contemplating resuming play, no matter the obstacle or the reality that the COVID-19 risks remain.

The stakes and the potential rewards are massive.

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