The Masters remains an incredible contradiction in American sports culture, it is both the most beautiful event and the most pretentious. It is one of the sports events on the calendar we all go out of our way to watch, even if we (I, for sure) think it is run by elitists who keep most of America at a very long arm’s length for about 360 days a year.
CBS was struggling to make something out of its 2017 Masters broadcast Sunday. Their announcers are vanilla, and the golf was just so-so. [The biggest problem I see with golf on TV is that the television shows – production, announcers (except Johnny Miller and the Waste Management circus in Phoenix), the players, and the courses – all feel the same week in and week out.]
Then around the 13th hole at The Masters it got interesting, and the production team at CBS took over the show, thanks in part to the drama created by the only two lead actors left on the stage, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. Kuchar, Spieth and others would supply some supporting actor moments.
Garcia miraculously saved par on the 13th and eagled the 15th, and the show was must-see TV the rest of the way. Both golfers struggled to put it away despite chances on the 17th and the 18th. Garcia grabbed his first green jacket with three nearly perfect shots on the first playoff hole. And even Justin Rose looked and was happy to see Sergio Garcia finally win a major tournament.
I think Jim Nantz has lost his edge, and I’m not really sure why. This goes for not only golf, but his football and basketball work as well. He and the stable of golf announcers are subject to the “Augusta” style of TV, which is staid and non-controversial. Like so much in American culture, TV sports needs “YouTube Moments,” and unfortunately at The Masters you don’t get many of those, thanks in part to the 1960s approach to TV and consumer relations. They don’t have aerial shots to see the big picture beauty; they don’t allow the most colorful of the announcers to work (Gary McCord); and they don’t allow cell phones on the course (so forget about any Twitter and Instagram conversations.)
Matt Kuchar aced the 16th, and that was one of the few “YouTube Moments” in that show, until the Garcia / Rose golf took over the show.
You must have these moments to break through to general audiences in the 21st Century media landscape. The back nine (and one playoff hole) provided very good sports television. But, if there is a basic tenant of broadcasting, it’s their job to overcome what is happening on the field of play. CBS struggled to do that for about two-thirds of the final round.
Garcia and Rose slapped them out of their stupor. From that point on, CBS was just about spot-on. Good scriptwriting almost always wins the day.