The 2013 Masters is in the history books and as we did with CBS's NCAA Tournament broadcast it's time to take a look at how the network covered their other marquee springtime event. From Tiger Woods and his illegal drop to all of Australia (supposedly) watching Adam Scott's victory, the tournament wasn't hurting for storylines. Here's 4 Takeaways from CBS's Masters coverage…
1) The Tiger Woods DropGate (yes I went there, get over yourselves) controversy was the biggest story of the week by far as it dominated ESPN, Golf Channel, CBS, and online coverage from Friday night into Saturday morning. The rules of golf have never been more closely examined, and please God let us never have to go back there again. I kept thinking how silly it was to have so much attention paid to one drop, but as someone who has a bit of the gentleman's game in their blood, I know how uber-seriously the sport takes these things. This is far from the first time some guy with a USGA rulebook next to his remote who always wants to awkwardly join your buddies and make it a foursome has called in to report a rules violation. Analysts weren't grandstanding saying Tiger Woods should withdraw to make a name for themselves, that's legitimately how many people around the game felt.
But as the story progressed Saturday, some of that furor dissipated. In the morning on Golf Channel, Nick Faldo led the drumbeat for Tiger Woods to withdraw saying it would be the "manly" thing to do. By the afternoon on CBS, Faldo had significantly backed off and more or less agreed with the decision. I have no problem with someone changing their position based on new evidence, but Faldo and CBS had to at least make reference to his earlier position and acknowledge that those comments actually did exist. Sunday, when Jim Nantz brought the controversy up again and the harshest critics of Tiger Woods on Saturday morning, he had one sitting right next to him and yet Faldo's comments were completely ignored. Who knows why CBS and/or Faldo decided to sweep it under the rug, but for viewers that followed the news cycle, it was a baffling sequence of events. Even other analysts at CBS noticed.
It's easy for Tiger Woods to dominate a golf broadcast, even when his name isn't at the top of the leaderboard. But as the story shifted from the drop controversy back to the tournament, I actually thought CBS did very well to turn the focus to the leaders (Scott, Cabrera, Day) on the Back 9 and not take too much attention away from them.
2) Did you know Adam Scott is from Australia? I only heard it about 689 times during Sunday's Back 9. The Masters has this weird thing where every international player wins tournaments not only for themselves, but their entire country as if a national holiday is going to be observed the day after. (If Charl Schwartzel has actually made it on a South African postage stamp yet, I obviously take back what I said.)
I get it that it is a huge deal to golf fans in Australia to have one of their own finally win The Masters, trust me, I was a sobbing mess when Greg Norman blew it in the 1996 Masters. (I was 10 and had an awesome black Shark hat, give me a break.) I thought the "first Australian storyline" overshadowed what Scott has done personally though. Here's someone who once was supposed to be the guy to challenge Tiger Woods, who had never won a major, and was just coming off one of the great collapses in major history at last year's British Open. Scott's journey to his first major and the way in which he won it was a strong enough story to stand up on its own. You got the sense CBS just said if any of the 3 Australian guys look like they're going to win, then we'll squeeze every drop out of this angle we can, regardless of whether or not it was Scott, Jason Day, or Marc Leishman.
3) For the second time in a week, we witnessed a punless Jim Nantz championship call. Why this earth-shattering isn't drawing headlines around the world is startling. In fact, after Scott's playoff birdie, the classic Nantzian delivery fell to Nick Faldo and Ian Baker-Finch after Nantz's call of a "life-changer." Watch…
Faldo: "An unbelievable magical moment. He is now officially the Wizard of Oz!"
Baker-Finch: "From down under to on top of the world, Jim."
What happened to Jim Nantz? Did he finally discover the internet was having a field day with predicting his final calls and decide to shut it down? This was the one thing we could always look forward to with an event voiced by Jim Nantz. The one thing that separated him from the other top announcers, don't take this away from us!
Oh well, we will always have his "Best in Show!" call from the Butler-UConn title game. Memories.
4) On the whole, you're not going to find a broadcast more finely tuned than CBS at The Masters. That's not to say it doesn't have its issues. As Bob Costas pointed out, CBS is at the beck and call of Augusta National and they've made the decision to sacrifice something of a journalistic bent by catering to the tournament year after year. However, that's not to disparage all the work CBS does in covering the tournament. Sunday Night Football is widely regarded as the best all-around sports telecast, but I'd put The Masters on CBS in the Top 5. From the pictures, to the impressive roster of hole announcers (there's just something hypnotic about Verne Lundquist's whisper voice in the 16th tower), to the lack of commercials or advertisements for 2 Broke Girls.
The amazing thing about The Masters telecast is how everything works like clockwork. It's like the broadcast operates in its own universe. (That certainly has its positives and negatives.) Every year you're going to know which announcers are calling which holes on the front and back nine (David Feherty does 2/15, Peter Oosterhuis 8/17, etc.). Every year you're going to have the same awkward handshake between Billy Payne and Jim Nantz. Every year you know you're going to get the same replay of the ceremonial tee shots at the same time of the telecast. Every year you're going to have Joe Ford and his charming southern drawl welcome you to The Masters with limited commercial interruption. Everything is going to largely be the same year in and year out. Heck, I even noticed that Joe Ford's voice inflection was slightly different with how he said "And we hope you enjoy The Masters" this year. His voice definitely went up at the end instead of down this time.
Maybe that's a sign I've watched way too many Masters tournaments… or I possibly need a vacation.