Many golf and sports fans ask me what it’s like covering The Masters, one of the most difficult tickets to find and from a media standpoint, one of the most coveted press credentials!
Masters week is very special for so many reasons. This Masters was the 16th Masters that I’ve covered for WFAN Radio in New York. Doing up-dates for CBS Sports Radio Network was added to my responsibilities, broadcasting up-dates all day long from Thursday – Sunday and guesting on a variety of network shows throughout the tournament. I also wrote daily columns for wfan.com and appeared on NBC Nightly News as part of a piece they did about the Tiger ‘dropped ball’ controversy.
I usually get into Augusta Sunday evening, walk the course on Monday and Tuesday, watch the players practice at the range and on the putting green, talk to various players and a variety of people under the iconic oak tree near the club house early in the week and have lunch in the clubhouse. I set up my radio equipment, research, write preview voicers for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio Network, write my column and spend money in the pro shop and the merchandising tent! After all, a passionate golf fan can never have enough Master memorabilia!
And every evening, there is a different function to attend, from the Traveler’s Dinner on Tuesday evening where each year, they have a professional golfer visit who plays in the Travelers Championship in June (Michael Thompson was there this year) to the Golf Writers of America Association Awards Dinner on Wednesday evening where Rory McIlroy received the ‘Male Golfer of the Year Award’ and posed for pictures with his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki. Every year on the Thursday evening of Masters Week, I attend the Tourism Ireland reception which is held in a gorgeous, historic big home in town. And on the Saturday evening every year, CBS Sports hosts a lovely dinner at the beautiful home they rent each year.
Once the tournament begins on Thursday, I don’t leave my broadcast area in the state-of-the-art media center. I watch every second of the live broadcast on television on the computers Augusta National provides at every media member’s station. I need to watch the coverage on TV, as opposed to walking the course and following one group, so I can report on the entire tournament for my up-dates three times an hour.
‘Radio row’ is at the top of the amphitheater-like space and I sit top left. From my ‘perch,’ I can see the huge scoreboard in front and over 400 journalists and broadcasters who are fortunate enough, like me, to get credentials. Players are brought in to the press conference area which is located in the media center as well. In my booth, I get the audio feed from the press conferences going on so I can listen, in-between my on-air reports, to what the players have said about their games, the course, the conditions, etc.
Each year the story lines are compelling as the competition unfolds. This year, The Tiger ‘dropped ball controversy,’ (the drop took place on the 15th hole in Friday’s second round after his approach shot hit the flag stick and rolled into Rae’s Creek) and the story unfolded on Saturday morning after officials were forced to react after a viewer contacted tournament officials and pointed out that Tiger’s drop was illegal according to the rules of golf). We could write pages on this. Various golf experts and commentators and former players were calling for Tiger to disqualify himself!
Saturday was a gorgeous sunny day but the controversy turned ugly and took attention away from third round play. Fred Ridley, the Chairman of the Competition Committee, did a brilliant job describing what became Augusta National’s ‘unpopular’ decision, and how they arrived at the decision to assess Tiger two penalty points, rather than disqualifying Tiger for signing an incorrect scorecard based on taking an illegal drop.
Tiger ended up finishing tied for fourth, even with the two stroke penalty! Good thing he didn’t win or the controversy would have been even louder and an asterisk would no doubt have been placed by his name, forever, by many.
Most finishes at The Masters are thrilling but this past Sunday, Adam Scott of Australia and Angel Cabrera of Argentina, made it one for the ages! Adam Scott birdied the final hole to go to 9 under, taking a 1 shot lead over Cabrera who was on the 18th fairway, waiting to hit his approach shot. Cabrera had to birdie the final hole to force a play-off. He did just that, coming up with an incredible approach shot that landed three feet from the pin!
The Final Round went into a sudden death play-off and Scott dropped a 12 footer for birdie on the second play-off hole (hole #10) after Cabrera just missed his birdie putt.
Scott earned his first Major Title and it marked the first time an Australian ever won The Masters! It was morning time in Australia when Adam Scott sunk that putt to win so you know that the fun-loving, sports- proud Aussies were ‘tossing back the tinnies,’ as they say, in what turned out to be a much needed happy ending at The Masters!