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No Front-Nine Coverage a Half-Truth

April 08, 1999|MIKE PENNER

Suppose the national broadcast of Game 7 of the World Series began with an 0-and-2 count on the fourth batter in the top of the third inning. Suppose the Super Bowl came to you live, on third and 13 from the Denver 27 with 1:43 left in the first quarter--minus the two-hour pregame show, the two-hour prelude to the pregame show and the one-hour post-pregame show analysis and wrap-up show.

(Not that that would be a bad thing, necessarily--only an unusual thing.)

Such is the annual real-life predicament again facing CBS this weekend as it prepares to broadcast the third and fourth rounds of the Masters within the narrow tournament-prescribed time parameters: 2 1/2 hours of live coverage Saturday, followed by three hours Sunday.

That is all the television coverage the Masters directors want, so that is all the television time CBS will get.

And if you ask CBS' broadcast team about it, well, tread carefully.

Quite frankly, some of the boys in the tower are starting to get testy with all the references to "final-round semi-coverage" and "back-nine-only partial coverage."

"It gets really tiresome," says Jim Nantz, who will host CBS' coverage for the 11th consecutive year. "A lot of people are hearing that question or that theme: 'Why don't you show coverage of the front nine?' I even saw it reported this week in Sports Illustrated. It is so misrepresented to the public.

"This is not a tournament where we only show the back nine. We show whatever is available to us when we come on the air at 4 p.m. [EDT] on Sunday. This is my 14th Masters overall and we've had 14-hole coverage, if you will. Because we pick up play wherever the last group is and that's usually on the fifth fairway. And one year, we started out on the fourth because there had been a slight backup, so that was actually 15-hole coverage.

"So the idea that we don't do 18-hole coverage is not really accurate and it kind of cheapens what we do."

This is something of a half-cocked rant for the agreeable, play-it-straight-down-the-middle-of-the-fairway Nantz. But while speaking with reporters on a conference call with color analyst Ken Venturi, Nantz is clearly worked up about the topic, and not about to easily let it go.

"It gives us something to talk about, something to write about, because it sounds like it's really a story," Nantz says, "when again it's portrayed inaccurately that we're only doing nine-hole coverage. When, in fact, we're showing coverage from the fifth hole on.

"So, what are we missing--holes 1 through 4? I mean, how many people out there are really, like, losing sleep over the fact we don't have coverage on 1, 2, 3 and 4?"

Venturi: "Me!"

Nantz, laughing, finally: "But you're here!"


Change being what it is in Augusta--unwanted, a renegade, an outlaw--Nantz nearly brims with emotion when discussing the landscaping alterations made this year on the course at Augusta National Golf Club.

"First off," Nantz points out, "there's a rough for the first time. I think it'll be fascinating for the golf fans out there that feel like even though they've never been to this golf course before, they know it hole by hole. It will look a little different because for the first time ever, they have defined the boundaries of the fairways here. So, it will be interesting for a lot of golf fans and purists to see exactly how wide the fairway is . . .

"And I will say the changes on the 15th hole, where they have trimmed the mounds and planted trees, has added something to our broadcast. If possible, they've injected even more drama into the tournament.

"Because now, instead of getting a trampoline effect off the mounds off your tee shot at 15 . . . it's going to take a much more precise tee shot. And for these guys who don't have [Tiger Woods'] length--which is basically the rest of the field--we'll have, once again, like the old days--a decision to be made of 15's second shot. And that's wonderful to have it back again.

"We'll have guys in the 225 to 240 [yard] range who are going to be standing there, paralyzed by fear, trying to decide whether or not they want to risk it and try to knock it over the water and put it on the green."

Yes, flop sweat at the side of the 15th fairway always makes for gripping television.

Nantz predicts the course changes will add an average of a stroke a round to tournament scores. Venturi, meanwhile, forecasts chaos for the Masters history book.

"You've got to attach an asterisk to the records now," Venturi says. "Where before you had Tiger Woods, who broke the record at 270--this is not the same course he shot 270 on.

"You've got the second hole, which is 50 yards longer. You've got a 25- to 30-yard change at 17. You've got some other things.

"I don't see 270 ever being approached again with what they're doing."

But on the off-chance someone does this Sunday, CBS promises to be there to bring you the historic chase.

From the fifth hole on.


Masters Coverage


* Today and Friday: USA Network, 1-3:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m.; Highlights on CBS, 11:30-11:45 p.m.

* Saturday: CBS, 12:30-3 p.m.

* Sunday: CBS, 1-4 p.m.



Jim Nantz (host) and Ken Venturi (analyst); Interviews from Butler Cabin by Bill Macatee; 17th hole, Peter Oosterhuis; 16th hole, Sean McDonough; 15th hole, David Feherty; 14th hole, Verne Lundquist; 13th hole, Venturi; 12th and 11th holes, Bobby Clampett; 10th hole, Peter Kostis.

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