The 2023 Masters is in the books and the Spaniard Jon Rahm (above) has won his second Major His first was the U.S. Open in June, 2021 at Torrey Pines.
With this being the first time, the tournament was contested with members of the PGA Tour and the Saudi backed rival LIV, there were questions in just how the LIV participants would be covered from a broadcast perspective. CBS did its job.
It covered the golf without opening deep seeded wounds during a telecast which to golf aficionados globally, is a holy week of sorts. This being said, the underlying rift came into full bloom during this Masters and the sense here is that CBS did what Executive Producer Sellers Shy said it would do. Cover the golf and let the story play out. It was done against cruel weather challenges and impressively so.
Let’s get to the grades.
Jim Nantz- A+
The dean of TV golf play by play.
His storytelling was again superlative, weaving in tidbits of yesteryear at the Masters so seamlessly so that viewers appreciated the rich Augusta history as current participants played similar shots. The pertinent recall and prep struck me mellifluously at this year’s Masters when Jim aptly brought in several key stories of the great Seve Ballesteros and intertwined them as Rahm played his way to the top of the leaderboard.
As the amateur Sam Bennett became an intriguing storyline, Nantz was quick to discuss his former colleague Ken Venturi finishing as runner-up in 1956. And don’t sleep on a Nantz quick dig at LIV when he mentioned Koepka was in the “CW”….. the Crosswalk, not on a small network where the startup tour plays. We hear you, Jim. We hear you!
Trevor Immelman- Lead Analyst- A-
First time in the lead chair at the Masters, taking over for long-timer Nick Faldo, Immelman was outstanding and why is simple. He is really able to break down a swing quickly and efficiently as only golfers can appreciate. For example, describing Koepka on the 10th hole on his drive on Friday, Trevor said he liked to watch his trail, (Back) shoulder. If it “gets through,” he’s hitting the ball well. They showed the replay of his swing and just like that the viewers sees the trail shoulder getting through. He did this with several players which is something his predecessor Faldo infrequently did. That is preparation and sharply observant. Its’ a tough chair to be in and as a former Masters champion, he delivered the goods. If you’re wondering, Nick announced earlier in the week that he’ll be working for British sportscaster, Sky.
Dottie Pepper- On Course Commentator- A
Dottie’s excellent and what she does very well is quickly analyze a shot and deliver her analysis to viewers clearly, nothing too complicated. For example, as the course was becoming visibly saturated on Saturday, she discussed the difficulties players were facing, getting the ball to stop quickly on their chips and pitches around the difficult green complexes and how the ball tends to skip more.
Watch a half an hour when it was raining profusely, the viewer might very well recall her comment, watching it play out time and time again. One thing additionally was the back and forth between Nantz, Immelman and Pepper. It was a little different for CBS. It was more reminiscent of what you hear on an NBC Golf broadcast. Yet I liked it. One more thing on Pepper, she’s not afraid to bring up the fact that the patrons were essentially behind Rahm more so than they were Koepka. A subtle but outwardly jab at LIV.
Another angle which CBS covered very well was the twosome of Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson, both former Masters’ champions and outspoken proponents of the changes that golf has undergone throughout the last year.
Saying remarkably very little on the heated subject of PGA Tour vs. LIV, the visuals of the underlying tension between Spieth and Mickelson were evident as they showed neither really engaging much and keeping distance throughout the round. It’s like that one guy you get paired up with at the club and you just don’t feel like being around him or saying much to, for 4 hours. While they gentlemanly shook hands after both produced a late final round fireworks, it was evident that there’s not much love lost there. That’s the feeling CBS gave us.
Overall, this was really a three-person broadcast with Nantz, Immelman and Pepper the headliners. Frank Nobilo, Andrew Catalon and Verne Lundquist at 6 and 16 in his usual perch were present but otherwise not prominently featured on the broadcast. I was fine with it as they were used here and there but nothing overly memorable from either.
CBS Overall Grade- B
There has to be a better plan from a weather perspective between the Green Jackets and its long-time broadcast partner. Too much golf was missed in the Saturday window with CBS only airing 15 minutes of live golf before the weather suspended play for the day.
I understand the coverage is run by The Masters committee, but this isn’t 1983 anymore. The coverage is there. Figure out a way to show it. They got it right by bringing on Sunday coverage at 8:30am as the third round finished but there’s just not no excuse for what happened Saturday.
CBS did a good job bringing in the Phil Mickelson angle who made a late charge and for that matter, former Masters champion Patrick Reed as well. There really was very little talk of LIV. But give Amanda Renner credit for the brief interview she conducted post round with Koepka, raising the subject with little fanfare.
Featured Group Coverage:
Grade for Person who made the decision on Featured Group Coverage F-.
I’m the first to say sure, show Tiger Woods because he’s Tiger! But when you have a weather delay and have coverage that has leaders going off early and network coverage isn’t starting until 3pm. You’ve got to have the leaders as a featured group. Whoever made that decision, see me in my office ’cause you ain’t getting a sticker!
Colt Knost- Featured Group Analyst B-
He wins the Kirk Herbstreit Award. The former PGA Tour player was one of the main voices on the featured groups, live streaming with Shane Bacon, serving as play-by-play and former tour player Billy Kratzert but the microphone is still not shut off in Knost’s car as he makes his way home. The guy can talk and talk and talk, (you get the idea) and has a story for everything.
In fact, he’s quite good at what he does. He just needs to let it breathe a little bit more. He’s got a sense of humor and a knack for storytelling but must let his fellow analyst get some words in occasionally. Loved his work on hole #3 as he argued hard for players hitting iron off the short par 4, rather than a tricky short shot, they’d leave themselves by hitting driver. Needed more of that rather than the silliness that often takes over in the conversation. Remember, its usually the serious golfer who tunes in to the featured group coverage.
Golf Channel- Live From The Masters with Rich Lerner, Brandel Chamblee and Paul McGinley. A
Here’s where the grade with this trio was easy. Lerner has figured out how to get McGinley more engaged and the chemistry of the threesome is real.
Chamblee had it nailed though early when it was evident that there was a showdown brewing between Rahm and Koepka, his comment that Koepka was great as a front runner and Rahm was at his best as a chaser was prescient. Nailed it and I was considering that one comment throughout the drama filled the final 30 holes on Sunday.