It used to be my favorite place in all of sports – the photographer’s stand at Amen Corner on Sunday. For 35 years I felt blessed to be parked there, watching the leaders traipse around golf’s most famous real estate in America’s most famous golf venue.
With warm April sun splashing on my shoulder, brightly colored flowers framing the greens, and birds chirping in the Georgia woods, it always felt like I was part of the Masters landscape.
This year, as in the past two, I’ve been happily parked around my big screen HDTV during the Masters instead. And to be honest, it almost feels like I’m still there. Aside from the old friends and maybe the peach cobbler, I don’t really miss it at all.
Our dirty little secret: Every year when the leaders came through Amen Corner, almost every single journalist would scramble back to the press room to watch the final five or six holes on CBS anyway. You could never keep up with what was going on around the course if you didn’t.
The truth is, thanks to the late Frank Chirkinian of CBS, the Masters has become a made-for-TV event. Just as all of sports seems to be in the process of doing.
Yet, I read the other day that ESPN’s TV ratings for the current Masters were off by as much as 36 percent the first two days. That’s what missing Tiger Woods will do to the Nielsen ratings. Believe me, as the former media director of a Colorado PGA Tour event no longer in operation – The International – I can assure you the numbers are directly tied to high profile personalities like Woods.Tiger can make or break an event, although that’s never going to be the case with the sovereignty of the Masters. In our case he broke The International once he quit playing at Castle Pines because the TV ratings plummeted. (Ironically, the upcoming PGA Tour dates for the International were replaced by his AT&T event at Congressional in Washington, D.C.)
You can tell CBS is gagging a bit about the early ratings dropoff, although the golfing gods were fairly kind with the pairing of popular Bubba Watson and young 20-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth teeing off in Sunday’s finale. And venerable Freddie Couples still on the leader board.
Try as he may, my friend Jim Nantz can’t hype Jordan Spieth’s success big enough to convince us that he is the next Tiger. Although, like so many of you, I’m already a big fan of Spieth.
In fact, I gotta go now, because Spieth is teeing off at No. 1 and I’ll be able to see his shot better in my living room that I would standing at the No. 1 tee box.