Long criticized for being anchored to the past, Augusta National Golf Club has now arguably become one of the more outwardly forward-thinking powers in golf.

It’s not just the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur event, or by finally committing to a more diverse membership. Their digital presentation is unparalleled in the world of streaming, offering everything from bonus coverage to the ability to watch every shot from every player in the field.

The streaming quality is so good it’s crossed over into more mainstream sports consciousness, too.

That commitment to innovation from an organization that for so long was viewed as a problematic anachronism extended to today’s broadcast on ESPN (working with CBS production) that saw Rory McIlroy interviewed live as he played the ninth hole.

CBS has obviously used their mic’d up player tool well this year, with names like Jon Rahm and Max Homa donning an Airpod and talking the broadcast booth through their approach to a hole. It’s been revelatory, and today’s version with McIlroy was both a surprise and a delight. This wasn’t really publicized ahead of time, lighting up Twitter and serving as a wonderful little diversion.

It was made all the better by new lead analyst Trevor Immelman, who alongside Jim Nantz did the remote interviewing. Immelman setting up Rory for quick thoughts about his impending wedge approach while McIlroy was taking practice swings was outstanding broadcasting. And getting to hear Rory’s immediate feedback seconds after the shot landed on the green was the kind of access that makes for the very best sports broadcasting. Remove as much of the filter as possible, please.

McIlroy is one of the biggest names in the sport and also one of the most accessibly and willingly eloquent, so having him be the first player to do this at Augusta feels fitting. Considering just a few months ago he sounded less than enthusiastic about it, it’s fair to assume he’s seen how well the production addition has played and how important it might be for the sport’s broadcast advancement.

The beginning of the segment was somewhat rocky thanks to a slight technical issue, but that was ironed out as the hole went on and Rory was more than willing to engage with the booth while making a comfortable par, joking that the reason he decided to wear the mic this week was because players featured on CBS so far had a tendency to contend and win the event.

Considering McIlroy is off to a slow start, that trend might get bucked. Regardless, seeing something like this happen just a few years after some PGA Tour stars threw fits about the possibility of wearing microphones demonstrates a potential sea change in how top players view the importance of a quality broadcast presentation.

Augusta National, of course, was way ahead of that curve in a variety of other ways, so of course they’d be the first major to encourage this kind of broadcast access. Let’s hope for more things like this going forward.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.