“A Tradition Unlike Any Other”
I have been watching The Masters on CBS ever since I can remember (and I can’t remember when I started). The first weekend in April always included the network’s coverage of the year’s first major for the men. Most years (weather permitting) those Saturdays and Sundays would start with a family round of golf at “The Shoe”, our beloved Washoe County Golf Course in Reno, Nevada. Through the years some combination of Mom, Dad, my older brother David, my younger brother Mark, and I would stride to the elevated tee on the municipal course’s first hole with varying degrees of excitement and anticipation. On many occasions the group was all five of us.
When I was young I played those rounds with the confidence of a kid who didn’t know any better. I whacked it around ‘The Shoe” with the absolute certainty that one day I would be playing Augusta National Golf Club on Masters Sunday. I also don’t remember the exact day that the “certainty” became far less indubitable but I do know it was before I started getting my butt whipped by Mark Lye, John Fought, and a hundred other guys in college tournaments. So my Masters experience was pretty much limited to watching the CBS coverage. And for a lot of those years I enjoyed it. When I started my professional career televising live professional tournaments at the network level, I started enjoying the CBS coverage a little less.
Thanks to the good folks in the green jackets at Augusta my enjoyment level returned a few years ago with the introduction of the various on-line, streaming, services the club offers. Featured Groups, Amen Corner and Holes 15 and 16 specifically. Because of that, my Apple TV, and my 60 inch SONY Smart TV, I watched very little of the 2018 Masters on CBS and didn’t miss a thing! In fact I would venture a guess that I saw more of the action live than you did if you were watching the traditional way.
There’s a terrific website http://www.classictvsports.com that, for the past several years has tracked the number of shots played by each golfer during the major championships. According to the data, this year CBS showed 1.39 shots per minute during the time they were on the air. That’s more than any other major since the group started watching in 2014 except last year’s Masters during which they showed 1.41 shots per minute. The Masters has a built-in advantage because of the reduced commercial time during the telecasts but, if you ask me, 1.39 shots per minute means if you watched CBS you watched an awful lot of guys NOT hitting golf shots. I speak from experience (no I never produced a Masters but I did produce a ton of live events and several majors) and I can tell you it takes anywhere from 15 to 40 seconds to show a shot. And it’s 40 if the producer gets to the shot way too early or the player “backs off” once he’s set to play. But that’s not the point of this missive. The point is I have found a new way to watch The Masters and it was a terrific, for the most part, experience.
Featured Groups- Thanks to this I got to watch a ton of Tiger, Phil, Rickie, Rory and many more. Admittedly I had to do it with the sound muted but I still got to see every shot, with NO commercials, and limited leaderboard breaks. They offered two groups in the morning and two in the afternoon and this was where I spent a lot of my time. Except when I was watching
Amen Corner- This was the most satisfying viewing experience of the week, for a few reasons. 1) Grant Boone and Billy Ray Brown. I know and have had the pleasure to work with both. Grant is among a handful (if that hand is missing a finger) of the best play-by-play guys in the business. Smart, witty, insightful and studied (even though there are still times he talks too much 🙂 ) Grant’s work lifts the tide of all the boats during his Amen Corner coverage. Billy Ray is the perfect sidekick. Funny, self-deprecating and comfortable, the former player and long-time announcer brings a perfect blend of folksy and familiar to the proceedings. During this coverage I got to see pretty much every single shot from every single player who went through those famed three holes. Appointment viewing for every golf fan. After I went back to “featured group” coverage to watch 14 I switched to
Holes 15 and 16- While not as good as “Amen Corner” because of the announcing, Luke Elvy (who has too heavy an accent for me) and Bobby Clampett did a nice job on these two, great holes. Then it was back to “featured group” coverage for the final 2 holes. Throughout these offerings other announcers including Ned Michaels and Brian Crowell jumped in to offer the Boone’s Billy Ray’s and Clampett’s a chance to eat or pee.
I even got to see Tony Finau play golf! In typical CBS fashion Finau, who nearly broke his ankle after making a hole-in-one during the par 3 contest on Wednesday but still managed to contend, got ZERO love from the network. Again, according to http://www.classictvsports.com Finau was “afforded” three televised shots on Sunday. THREE. The guy made SIX birdies in a row during one stretch on Sunday and finished TIED FOR TENTH! No matter how much of a CBS apologist you are, you can’t tell me Patrick Reed tugging on his shirt sleeves or Jordan Spieth whining to Michael Greller is more compelling than that. Thanks to my new-found, best way, to watch The Masters I got to see Finau hit 17 shots and make FOUR of his six straight birdies.
I have been fortunate to have been able to witness the last half-dozen United States Open Championships in person and this year will be no exception. I’ll watch The British Open like many of you, whenever I wake up in the morning until it’s over and my viewing of the PGA Championship will have a huge on-line influence especially if my friend Brian Anderson is working. Because the PGA of America doesn’t do anywhere near as good a job as Augusta, on the weekend I might be forced to watch network coverage. But here’s my unsolicited advice for the 2019 Masters Tournament. Get the Masters app, buy Apple TV, purchase a beautiful, big screen, Smart TV and watch that way. You can thank me later.