Bulls & Bears: Matsuyama's Masters win will be big story at Tokyo Olympics

Opinion: Last week’s Masters was a massive hit in the land of the rising sun.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan celebrates during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11 in Georgia.

Bulls of the week

When it came to the Masters golf tournament last weekend in Augusta, Ga., American TV audiences followed the trend of flat and often declining ratings that we’ve seen over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBS averaged a modest 9.45 million viewers and peaked at 12.6 million. While that was up 68 per cent from the last Masters held in its postponed dates in November 2020 and was the most-watched round in any major going back to the Tiger Woods’ redemption win at Augusta in April 2019, it was still a generational low for the tournament in its typical dates. Not since the 1993 tournament drew a final round of 9.41 million were the TV numbers so small at a spring Masters.

Having said that, the picture changes when global TV audiences are considered. With Hideki Matsuyama becoming the first Japanese male to win a major, last week’s Masters was a massive hit in the land of the rising sun; one which woke up watching the conclusion just before 8 a.m. Tokyo time Monday. Once all of the international TV numbers are in, this year’s Masters should be among the most-watched all time golf tournaments globally on the strength of Matsuyama’s triumph.

Japan is already the world’s most rabid golf market on a per capita basis and Matsuyama’s victory will help create a new generation of fans. It should also make him the beneficiary of hundreds-of-millions of endorsement dollars if he can parlay Sunday’s win into regular appearances on the PGA Tour and Asian tour leaderboards in the coming weeks and months.

What makes Matsuyama the most bullish personality in the business of sport this week is his timing. He will be the focal point of the golf competition at the Tokyo Olympics if that event proceeds without any major hiccups this summer. In fact, he’ll be the leading domestic news story of the entire Games.

Bears of the week

The NHL deserves credit for the way it managed its operations around COVID-19 in 2020.

Being able to stage a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament in the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton without a single positive coronavirus test was no small accomplishment last summer. Yet the second and third waves of COVID-19 have played more havoc with the NHL this season, especially in mid-winter when the Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres were all hit with team outbreaks. Yet none has been a more disruptive and disconcerting outbreak than the one that has kept the Vancouver Canucks on the sidelines for what will be three weeks by the time they reconvene next week.

It has left the Canucks in the ridiculous situation where the NHL is asking them to play their remaining 19 games in the compressed 56-game regular season in one month.

We can all understand the economic imperative of playing as many of the games as possible to protect local radio, regional and national TV revenues and sponsorship income.

Yet the reputational cost of force-feeding these games before a mid-May start to the 2021 Cup tournament is potentially higher. That’s especially true if a rash of injuries or lingering effects of the virus outbreak call into question the integrity of games involving the Canucks.

The Sport Market rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of sport business in 12 radio markets across Canada. Join Tom Mayenknecht — a co-founder of what was TEAM 1040/TSN 1040 in Vancouver — for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport-business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Mayenknecht at:

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