POSTED BY STUART LEVINE
Sometimes, on rare occasion, the hype is true.
"A tradition unlike any other" … so says the CBS marketing team about the Masters for the past few decades. The message is drummed into our heads in categorizing the bigger-than-life golf tournament that runs April 10-13 from the hallowed grounds in Augusta, Ga.
But guess what? It's no lie. There's nothing quite like the Masters. For me, the Masters is always the year's greatest sporting event. This weekend's Final Four is great, the Super Bowl is a must see and the World Series -- though certainly not what it once was -- remains a top draw, yet the final round of the Masters is the most compelling sports television by far.
Who doesn't remember where they were when Tiger Woods hit his miraculous pitch from just off the green at the 16th hole in 2005? I just watched it again on YouTube and my goosebumps immediately returned.
This year ESPN replaces USA Network in providing coverage of the first two rounds. CBS will offer its usual latenight highlights and then full 18-hole coverage on both Saturday and Sunday. I can't wait.
"It's the most exciting two-week stretch of the year," announcer Jim Nantz said about his job that takes him from the Alamodome in San Antonio for the NCAA basketball tourney to the majestic pine trees in northern Georgia. "My mind is always moving toward Augusta."
Tiger will, of course, be the center of discussion. Every putt. Every drive. Every lob wedge. Much has been made about whether Tiger will capture golf's Grand Slam -- the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship -- and while it seems completely crazy to think that he can accomplish it against the best players in the world, he's almost expected to do it. That's how good he is.
"He thought it was possible to do it this year," said Nantz, right. "We know the odds are astronomical but it's not that far-fetched for him to dream big."
Lance Barrow, coordinating producer for CBS golf, says the telecast will offer the same sort of top-notch coverage as in year's past but with two extra cameras in Amen Corner (holes 11-13) viewers will get a better sense of what's happening in that historic trio of holes.
Barrow also said the network will be incorporating a new Australian-created tracking system that, through animation, will give viewers a better point of view of shots in flight and how they might roll on a fairway and/or green.
Nantz spoke in glowing tones about the reverence when it comes to the Masters, and that it's just not him who says Augusta is special.
"That's true with everyone who's on the grounds there, not something that you have to keep reminding yourself," he said. "It's the natural reaction that everyone has. … The Masters has been my driving force since I've been 10 years old. I'm really grateful, with no sense of entitlement."