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  • 11:59 AM ET  08.11

By Dick Friedman

As a member of SI's Golf Plus staff and a contributor to our sister site golf.com, I spent my weekend focused on the PGA Championship. Clearly I was one of the few. Proud as a Peacock, NBC reports that ratings for the first two nights in Beijing are simply smashing -- up 22% from the corresponding Athens numbers (16.2 vs. 13.3). Here are a few hypotheses as to why.

1. Michael Phelps. His flying start was just what patriotic (and, let's face it, jingoistic) viewers needed to dip their toes into the water. Had Phelps flopped early on, the deflation would have rippled outward from 30 Rock.

2. It looks mah-ve-lous. As my colleagues have noted in previous posts, high-def TV makes almost every venue a visual feast (unless the smog gets in the way, as it seemed to in some of the early outdoor events). Much the way the Internet began to have a real effect during the Sydney Games in 2000, high-def is kicking in as a factor now.

3. There's nothing else on TV. People have been lusting for something to watch for weeks now.

4. The price of gas. Sorry that reasons No. 3 and 4 are so negative, but by curtailing and even eliminating many people's travel plans, high gas prices have encouraged the stay-at-home vacation.

What factors do you think explain this early ratings surge?

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