If you watched the Masters this weekend, you experienced what I believe was the best one of our generation. The story, the leader board, the drama. Better than ‘86. Never thought I’d say that.
It’ll do things for the golf industry that we haven’t seen since Tiger first won the Masters in ‘97.
For example, people will start buying Tiger gear again. It’ll help muni-courses. People will start chewing gum on a golf course because Tiger did this weekend.
This is my assessment of the CBS telecast and some additional comments about the work of ESPN and the Golf Channel. No holds barred.
- Huge Hustle Award to The Golf Channel for quickly getting 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus on the phone from the Bahamas to discuss Tigers’ victory. He was actually bone fishing when he came ashore to catch the finish with Tiger’s group standing on 12. We all know what happened when Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau both hit their balls in Rae’s Creek. Nicklaus even said to host Rich Lerner that he’s now “shaking in his boots” as Tiger approaches his record.
- ESPN kicked off coverage in the 3-7:30 window Thursday and Friday. Nice job by Scott Van Pelt and Curtis Strange who’ve formed a nice tandem kicking off the Masters over the past few years. Essentially, you’re getting CBS coverage with a couple ESPNers thrown in. Van Pelt’s an interesting study in that he’s done golf for some time. Does he have long term aspirations to eventually get into the 18th tower some day? It bears watching. Van Pelt is 52.
Scott has the steadiness and knowledge to do so but we’re talking years down the line. Jim Nantz will be there at least through Augusta’s 100th in 2033. Nantz turns 60 next month. Strange is good. With so much talk about Tiger, he did a good job early on explaining why guys like Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson would be forces to reckon with through the weekend. A little bit more energy is needed but overall solid to get things kicked off. I’ll give Van Pelt and Strage a solid B+.
- Andy North of ESPN, the two-time U.S. Open champion identified early the softer conditions of Augusta and aptly explained some of the difficulties that the course would present as the tournament matriculated. He showed viewers how #5 would be critical during this tournament and he proved to be right as the lengthened hole gave golfers fits throughout. North gets an A from me.
- Now to the biggie. CBS gets a giant A for its coverage overall. Right tone throughout the weekend. Some would say that Tiger gets too much coverage but again who moves the needle? It was a little baffling that all of a sudden Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele briefly held the lead outright and we hadn’t seen much of them sans the occasional birdie replay. But throughout we had the feeling that this was a Tiger moment not to be missed and CBS’ bet on that proved right. No one will remember who didn’t win the tourney.
- CBS presented riveting stuff from Jim Nantz, America’s preeminent golf announcer. Nantz gets an A+ for the week. No one has had a week quite like Jim but his steady hand in leading America down this great Masters has to be underscored. It contrasted to the indifference last year when Patrick Reed won. Reed, known as golf’s villain to many, simply was difficult to get behind for the CBS crew last year. That’s human. With Woods in contention all weekend you could tell the hair on the back of CBS was standing tall. The network knew that America would be all in on every shot and it didn’t disappoint. When Tiger pulled into a tie for the lead on 12, Nantz went to another level that few broadcasters are able to do. He led Faldo through much of the day on the history that was playing out. In fact, Nantz, early in the broadcast, brought Sir Nick to tears as they reminisced about Faldo’s Masters win thirty years ago. Nantz was as calm as possible in Butler Cabin when he asked questions of Woods, particularly on what it meant to have his dad there 22 years ago when he won Augusta for the first time and having his kids meet him yesterday just off the 18th green. Great production value by CBS having that video up and ready. The hugs caught by both camera shots took place in the exact spot.
- During early coverage there was an interesting exchange between Jim Nantz (for him) and Nick Faldo. Nantz essentially became entangled with Faldo when discussing Koepka. Nantz had said Koepka doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what he’s doing in majors and Faldo said some of it is because of Koepka’s indifference to the media. Nantz immediately shut that down saying “I don’t care what his relationship is, it has nothing to do with his play.” It was an unusual moment of raw emotion from Nantz during Masters coverage.
- Faldo was more dialed in as well. Nick gets an A- this year. He was a better analyst when it counted most. Many times he was giving locations on where players could or couldn’t miss and also how the softer conditions were confusing players at times. Why the minus? Would’ve liked to heard a stronger comment as to why Rory McElroy left the green, as the Northern Irishman and early favorite never was in contention. But Faldo upped his game this week and proved up to the gripping nature of the broadcast.
- Verne Lundquist at 16 was his old self this year. Verne was back in ‘86 mode as he knew his hole would once again play a pivotal role in the outcome. Good capture early from CBS to show the accessibility of 16 as two holes in one were made, one by Bryson DeChambeau and the other by Justin Thomas. Yet, let’s just say it was Tiger’s birdie at 16 that was the difference in the final outcome. Verne knew right away that when Tiger’s shot hit the green he’d be describing something close, coming down the slope. That being said he also gave his patented “Oh dear!” when hard charging Patrick Cantlay left his shot on 16 on the top shelf. Viewers knew right away that Cantlay had a problem putt. Verne gets an A.
- Dottie Pepper gets the improvement award this year. I was critical of her last year because there were spots where she just seemed uncomfortable. Much better this year on 13. With a green that was much slower and yielding fewer eagles, she was spot-on all weekend in describing the 13th. Still a little slower in some of the commentary but an improvement. I’ll give Pepper a B+
- Peter Kostis on 15 had his best Masters in some time but again with the action riveting from minute to minute, you better be on your game. Before Molinari hit his 3rd on 15, he elaborated on why it is such a difficult downhill shot. He proved right as Molinari hit a pine cone on the way up and dumped it into the water. He talked about where golfers needed to aim on 15 and why it was so important to hit their spots. It’s easy for golfers of a certain caliber to understand that, but for non-golfers that’s tough. Excellent job. Kostis gets an A.
- Amanda Balionis continues to impress. She’s so efficient in her interviews post round and poses the right questions. For example, she asked Brooks Koepka about his missed birdie putt on 18. Right question, right time. Koepka replied that he couldn’t use those words on TV. Balionis gets an A.
- I have to give another major shout out to The Golf Channel. Post game, no one does it better than the crew of Rich Lerner, Brandel Chamblee, Frank Nobilo and David Duval. Chamblee deserves a special mention. Got into a bit of a war of words with Koepka earlier in the week questioning whether Koepka had the toughness to close the door on a tourney as pressure packed as the Masters. Certainly something to keep an eye on as the major season continues.
- Mike Tirico had an excellent call on Westwood One radio. It captured the win, the historical significance and the reaction of the patrons in a very word-picture manner. Well done Mike!