Golf’s biggest annual television event, the Masters, will have a slightly different look this year.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus announced that U.S. audiences will see shot-tracing technology on five holes – Nos. 9, 10, 13, 15 and 18. CBS has promoted the expanded use of shot-tracing technology in its regular PGA Tour coverage, but until this year, it had been used only in digital coverage of the Masters. Now U.S. viewers will see it during the nine hours of weekend coverage on CBS.
“We’re trying to blend in the technology with our traditional coverage,” McManus said during a media conference call. “We’ve had good success with this on our digital platforms, and we think the time is right to introduce it into our regular coverage on Saturday and Sunday.”
This will be CBS’s 63rd consecutive year covering the Masters, and it will produce more than 110 hours of programming between its network, cable and digital coverage.
Coverage will begin with “Masters on the Range” April 2 on CBS Sports Network and on Masters Live coverage shown on CBSSports.com. Masters Live will include three other channels: Featured Groups, Amen Corner and holes 15 and 16. This year the network also is making its digital coverage available through the CBS Sports app on mobile phones and tablets.
It’s all but certain that the Masters will be the year’s highest-rated live golf production of the year. That’s pretty much a given every year. But this year there are many compelling storylines, most notably the fact that Tiger Woods is back in action and playing well.
CBS anchor Jim Nantz, in his 33rd year calling the tournament, went so far as to say, “This is probably the most anticipated Masters that any of us has seen in our lifetime.”
Despite all of the young players who appear at or near the top of their games, some older players tend to dominate the conversation. When Nantz was asked to name the Sunday final-group pairing that would generate the most excitement, he responded with some familiar names.
“Tiger and Phil (Mickelson),” Nantz said.
“And then we might (go with) Rory and Tiger,” CBS analyst Nick Faldo said.
Woods, playing the Masters for the first time since 2015, when he finished T-17, inevitably will be the biggest story at Augusta National.
“I think we’re all familiar with the bump you get in ratings when Tiger is in contention,” McManus said. “… It would be nice if he were on the leaderboard and in contention on Saturday and Sunday. But I don’t think our Masters telecast will live or die with the presence of Tiger Woods.”
Nantz ticked off other stories that could carry the Masters narrative next month – Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, recently getting his first victory in nearly five years; Bubba Watson, a two-time champion, who recently has won twice and seems to be in top form; Justin Thomas, who is playing well as he bids for his second major; and Rory McIlroy, who is looking to close out the career Grand Slam after a final-round flourish to win Bay Hill.
“You look at the superpowers of the sport, and almost all of them are peaking,” Nantz said, noting that Jordan Spieth was the most obvious exception.
“Everyone seems primed for this very occasion.”
Nantz noted that only five players have completed the career Grand Slam, and Gene Sarazen was the only one to do it at Augusta National, in 1935. But there’s obviously no video history of that tournament. That makes McIlroy’s bid to complete the Grand Slam next month all the more exciting.
“If Rory wins this tournament, that’s going to be up there among the top five all-time Masters stories,” Nantz said. “… The idea that (Rory) would be coming down the stretch to win the green jacket, and we would get to watch a career Grand Slam completed at Augusta National – that may not be as big as the story if Tiger comes back and wins, that would trump all – but if that’s (No.) 1, (Rory winning) would be 1A.”