Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson never seriously threatened to crash the party at the 2018 Masters, and yet the tournament delivered, as it always does.
That was reflected, in part, by strong double-digit ratings growth.
Here are my top three takeaways from the Masters coverage.
Augusta National in no hurry for technology
Augusta National works on its own schedule, which is why American audiences had to wait until this year to see shot-tracing technology on the network coverage – and then only on five holes. Perhaps in five or 10 years, CBS will convince the club to allow tracer technology on all 18 holes, as was done in August at the PGA Championship.
From the club’s standpoint, this probably is a trivial matter; the Masters could be shown in black-and-white and it probably still would be the highest-rated live golf show every year. But the tracers do wonders for the viewing experience.
And as I suggested earlier, the club would benefit, because the tracers effectively would help memorialize some of the tournament’s greatest shots.
One thing: Two people noted that the yellow tracer line sometimes gets lost against the sky. Perhaps a switch to Augusta green is in order.
Brandel Chamblee soars again
Every golf producer should use Brandel Chamblee’s Sunday night performance on “Live From the Masters” as a training film for their analysts.
Golf announcers invariably talk way too much and say very little; Chamblee talks at length, and we hang on every word.
He is to TV what Dan Jenkins or Herbert Warren Wind used to be at their best in print. They watch the same tournament as everyone else but process it and explain it on a whole different level.
Chamblee neatly captured the tone of the weekend with this dichotomy: “(Saturday) was like tennis without a net. Today was a contest of wills.”
Of the champion, he said, “There’s something inexorable about Patrick Reed … He plays with a certain defiance … You’ll now look at him as the type of player who can lead the Ryder Cup team, lead the Presidents Cup team.”
When Reed spoke post-round of being motivated by naysayers on Golf Channel, Chamblee immediately drew a straight line to Jack Nicklaus, who drew similar motivation from an Atlanta columnist who said Nicklaus was washed up in 1986.
On Jordan Spieth: “He’s the player that reminds you that golf is art,” Chamblee said. “We get slapped in the face, ‘It’s science, it’s science. You gotta go to the gym, you gotta get the video camera out.’ … He just reminds you, ‘I don’t have to hit it that straight. I don’t have to swing that pretty. I don’t have to drive it that great. I can just beat you with my brain and my hands.’”
Chamblee’s performance was what Nick Faldo probably would describe as “unbelievable.” I say this because Faldo describes everything as “unbelievable.”
Jordan Spieth’s Sunday charge? “Unbelievable.”
Spieth briefly threatening the course record? “Unbelievable.”
A replay of Spieth’s meltdown on 12 at the 2016 Masters? “Unbelievable.”
Patrick Reed’s magnificent back-nine play Saturday? “I really can’t believe it. . . It’s absolutely unbelievable.” A minute later Faldo said: “Every year somebody does something unbelievable here – sets new scoring records or does stuff we cannot believe.”
Rory McIlroy’s second shot to 13 Saturday? “He hit the most unbelievable shot on the fifth out of the bunker, and now this is an unbelievable shot.”
At one point Saturday, Faldo caught himself: “It’s unbeliev. . . It’s incredible.”
This isn’t just redundant, it is precisely the wrong word. Given that millions of viewers around the world witnessed these events, they are entirely believable.
It’s probably too much to expect any producer to coach up Faldo at this point. I suspect this verbal tic will grate on our ears for at least another decade. Gwk
(Note: This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Golfweek.)