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Following Tiger Woods' absence from the Chevron World Challenge last week, NBC's coverage of the event suffered a major blow to its ratings.

Tiger Woods skipping own golf tournament

The telecast of the tournament drew 1.2 million viewers, plummeting 54 percent from the previous year when Woods competed in it, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The 33-year-old golfer posted a statement on his Web site Friday apologizing to his fans for his "infidelity" and announcing an "indefinite break" from the game.

Tiger Woods taking a break from golf

But such a ratings plunge has happened before when Woods doesn't play. Following knee surgery in 2008, Woods was unable to participate in major competitions, causing viewership to drop significantly.

Tiger Woods loses first sponsorship

Starting next month, tournament coverage will increase, yet it's unclear how long Woods' sabbatical will last.

Industry observers were quoted as saying the ratings drop is explainable and could augur poorly for the sport's viewership numbers.

"Without Woods, televised tournaments are like a major motion picture without a star's name above the title — rarely do people go to see the flick," said Bill Carroll of the Katz TV Group. "Now only die-hard golf fans will watch the tournaments."

John Rash of Campbell Mithun said: "Indeed, his aura, which defined an era, is gone, and along with that, some viewers."