Augusta National has always been very protective of you not being able to watch too much of The Masters.
When coverage debuted in 1956 on CBS, you could only watch the last four holes. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when you could watch more than 2 hours of golf on Sunday. The 1980’s finally brought about early round coverage on USA, albeit for just a couple hours per day. It wasn’t until 2002 (!!!) that the tournament finally relented to allow CBS to show all 18 holes for the leaders on Sunday.
It’s always been a struggle for golf fans to watch as much of The Masters as they would like. Why? Ask the Chamber of Secrets that is the Augusta National boardroom. The Masters has always been high on its inherent exclusivity and the tournament has taken the mindset that if you want to see all of The Masters in all of its glory, you best join the “patrons.”
The advent of live streaming and the move to ESPN (with limited expanded coverage on Thursday and Friday) has certainly helped. ESPN is now showing 9 hours of live golf on Thursday and Friday starting at 3 PM ET, but viewers are still missing out.
Case in point on Friday: Tiger Woods was inexplicably missing from the Masters Live featured groups (which don’t even start until just before noon). No, instead of putting Woods’ group alongside Jordan Spieth as the two early featured groups, the tournament unbelievably chose the threesome of Matt Kuchar, Brooks Koepka, and Graeme McDowell. Zuh?!?
No disrespect to any of those players, but that is a braindead programming decision if there ever was one. It’d be like ESPN showing Magic-Hornets on Christmas Day instead of LeBron and the Cavs.
If you wanted to see Woods on Friday (-3 for the day at the time of posting) you could only catch him play Amen Corner and Holes 15 and 16 on the live stream.
If you wanted to see Jordan Spieth shoot a 33 on the front nine today to continue his torrid run, you were out of luck.
If you wanted to keep an eye on Charley Hoffman’s fantastic second round to try to keep pace with Spieth, again, no dice outside of a few holes.
No, with television coverage not starting until 3 PM ET, you’re going to miss out on lots and lots of live golf from the greatest and most prestigious and most watched golf tournament in the world. Why should that be the case? The only reason it’s not is because Augusta National says so. The club routinely gives up hundreds of millions of dollars a year on expanded television rights, commercials, apparel, you name it… simply because they can.
Perhaps the tournament could live by the old adage “keep them wanting more” for much of its history. But times are different now. With as much of The Masters available as it is in 2015, why not just go the rest of the way and make the entire tournament available on ESPN and CBS from first tee shot to last putt for all four days? The networks would do it in a heartbeat. Fans would rejoice. But whether it’s to protect some kind of misguided sense of aura or mystique, Augusta National refuses. This half measure of making a little bit more of the tournament available, while still missing out on key early round action, accomplishes nothing.
It’s an outdated philosophy, especially compared to other major championship golf coverage. Heck, coverage of any other golf tournament. For years now we’ve seen expanded coverage of regular PGA Tour stops on Golf Channel. We’ve seen ESPN go wire-to-wire at The Open Championship. Why can’t The Masters follow suit? Why would you resort your own fans to depending on crude drawings for live updates?
Just an incredible birdie putt by Tiger on 7, who apparently isn't scared of Jordan Spieth. pic.twitter.com/ZEgSC8BnU2
— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) April 10, 2015
Televising all 18 holes on Sunday hasn’t hurt the tournament. Airing more coverage on weekdays hasn’t made it any less special. If the demand exists, why not serve your fans who are wanting more?
It’s disappointing for fans of the tournament and fans of golf. But sadly, it’s nothing new.
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