By Steve Elling
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Once again, the public appetite for Tiger Woods, even 30 months after his last PGA Tour victory, never seems to wane.
Rising star Rory McIlroy did his fair share, too.
With the two leading men trading shots down the stretch on Sunday, the Honda Classic pulled its best overnight rating in a decade, grabbing a 3.2 rating for the final round, where McIlroy held off the charging Woods by two strokes.
The rating is the best for the event's final round since 2002, when Matt Kuchar won the event. McIlroy held on and became the new No. 1 player in the world, withstanding a 62 posted by Woods, the best final-round score of his career.
In all, the network reported a Sunday rating that 78 percent higher than the mark at Honda. which managed a 1.8 overnight for the final round. The broadcast hit high tide with a 4.3 rating as McIlroy in the telecast's final minutes.
With the No. 1 ranking on the line for McIlroy, the reigning U.S. Open champion, NBC earned a 1.9 overnight rating on Saturday, marking the best third-round overnight since '05. NBC sister network Golf Channel averaged 1.04 million viewers for its coverage on Thursday, marking the event's most-viewed opening round ever.
On the ground, Honda officials claimed a 44 percent increase in fans, drawing 162,000 for the week.