Yes, sir: Tiger Woods wasn’t the only big winner at the Masters

first_imgDon’t bother judging. Just award the Sports Emmy for best live sporting event to CBS Sports for its spine-tingling coverage of Tiger Woods Masters victory on Sunday.  CBS’ coverage of the 43-year old Woods completing what many are calling the greatest comeback in sports history was riveting television from start to finish.  There also seemed to be an unfortunate affect among on-course announcers to make spurious excuses for bad shots and putts by Woods. It wasn’t Tiger’s fault you see. Instead, it was a gust of wind, a sidlehill lie, spike mark, his bad back and so forth. In an effort to get spectators off the course before the storm hit, Augusta also cancelled the traditional outdoor donning of the green jacket. Masters viewers like myself like their tradition. That was a TV loss as the ceremony moved to cramped Butler Cabin.But those are minor quibbles. For one magical Sunday, golf was back. So is Tiger Woods. So will CBS post monster ratings for Sunday’s final round? As Lundquist would say: “Yes, sir.” This was the sports telecast of the year. It was the best Masters since 46-year old Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket in 1986. It’s also a reminder that no single athlete drives TV ratings like a healthy Tiger on the prowl.MORE: Tiger redemption timeline — What it took for Woods to return to gloryIt was one of those telecasts where you felt the entire sports world — from the biggest superstars to plain old sports fans — were glued to the TV set at the same moment. Twitter was our cyber sports bar where everybody from Sunday hackers to Tom Brady and Steph Curry weighed in (Twitter says it had 1.4 million tweets Sunday about Woods; 1.8 million on the Masters).Greatest comeback story in sports! Congrats @TigerWoods Let me hold one of those 5 jackets one time!— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) April 14, 2019On Sunday, we witnessed a perfect storm of ingredients that make sports TV great.You want a flawed but compelling hero? At his peak, Woods was the biggest sports star since Michael Jordan, winning four Masters and 14 total majors and becoming the new golden boy of Madison Avenue. But his career has played out like greek tragedy. A formerly superhuman champion undone by his own arrogance, selfishness and sexual addictions. After destroying his marriage, and nearly his career, Woods endured an almost biblical plague of back, knee and leg injuries. He lost his health, his game, his fans, his sponsors.Woods never stopped fighting, no matter how he humiliated himself on the world stage. He became more humble, more approachable to fans and players. The intimidating golf cyborg became human. Spinal fusion surgery enabled him to miraculously return to tournament form. The middle-aged Woods became— dare we say — lovable in a way he never was during his 20s.MORE: Steph Curry gives fans an assist on 3-1 jokes following Tiger’s victoryThe old Tiger never came from behind on the final day to win a major: He was the ultimate front-runner. But the older and wiser Woods did just that Sunday. He out-dueled British Open winner Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau in the final threesome. He even beat back power-hitting major winners Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, who modeled their games and weight-lifting routines from Woods himself.  You want great coverage? CBS’ Jim Nantz proved once again proved he’s the perfect announcer to host Masters coverage. Lead analyst Sir Nick Faldo has won three Masters himself, so he can expertly relate the emotional highs and lows of players. CBS’ ace-in-the-hole is Verne Lundquist. The 78-year old broadcast legend has given up his college football and basketball duties, but he still returns every year to his tower on the 16th hole.The CBS team rose to the occasion Sunday. The green jackets at Augusta National Golf Club have already trademarked Nantz’s memorable description of the Masters: “A Tradition Unlike Any Other.” He memorably set the table for the drama to come Sunday.  “The skies are grey. But the air is thick with anticipation; truly a final round unlike any other at Augusta with the early start and groups of three,” noted Nantz.You want jangling, final-round nerves? Augusta’s deceptively simple 155-yard, Par 3 12th hole continued to be the place where Masters dreams go to die. Like Jordan Spieth, Greg Norman and Tom Weiskopf before them, Molinari, Koepka, Finau and Ian Poulter all found Rae’s Creek on No. 12. Woods was the only one whose ball stayed dry. It helped him win the tournament.MORE: What the world was like when Tiger last won a majorAfter nearly holing his tee shot Saturday, Molinari came up 10 yards short before watching his ball roll backwards into the water. Faldo didn’t pull his punches: “That was just so weak. That ball didn’t even look like it was flying.”As Woods stepped up to his tee shot, CBS cut back to a shellshocked Molinari looking out over the course with a 1,000-yard stare.On replay, Faldo didn’t say Molinari choked, ala Johnny Miller of NBC Sports. But he came close: “A lovely swing, on-line. But (Molinari’s shot) just came out so soft. It didn’t have any go in it, that ball.”The tension continue to build as Woods battled his younger competitors. Finally, he took the lead and strode up the 18th fairway looking for his fifth green jacket and first in 14 years. As Woods stepped up to the winning putt, Nantz whispered, “Waited for years. Many doubt we’d ever see it.Then as the putt dropped, Nantz exclaimed: “The return to glory!”As the crowd went crazy, Nantz and CBS’s producers then wisely went silent, letting the microphones capture the “Tiger, Tiger, Tiger” chant of the crowd (oops I meant “patrons”).We saw Woods hugging his son Charlie, his daughter Sam and his mother Kutilda. At the end, CBS also smartly bookended footage of a 21-year old Tiger hugging his late father Earl Woods after winning the ’97 Masters with today’s video of Woods hugging his kids.At the end of his long victory walk, we saw a gaggle of PGA Tour stars (including Bubba Watson in one of his two green jackets) waiting to congratulate him. Why not? Woods has made them all rich. The best want to compete against the best. If Sunday’s any indication, maybe Woods is still the best.The 61-year old Faldo visibly choked up on the air while recalling his first Masters victory 30 years ago. Hokey? Maybe. To me, it said more about the passage of time and meaning of a major victory, than some schmaltzy, pre-packaged feature. Once the action moved to the back nine, Faldo noted: “This is the Nerve Zone for the next nine holes.”Lundquist was Lundquist: familiar, folksy, fun.He didn’t come up with memorable lines similar to “Maybe…Yes Sir!” or “In your life have, you seen anything like that?” to Nicklaus and Woods’ previous heroics at Augusta, but he doesn’t have to at this point. Until he decides otherwise, Lundquist’s part of the scenery at Augusta, along with the azaleas and Amen Corner. As familar and comforting to viewers as slipping into an old shoe.Congrats Tiger! What a performance..— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) April 14, 2019Was TV coverage flawless? Nope.Analyst Paul Azinger wiffed on his Sunday Golf Channel prediction. “I just see Molinari going all the way. I’d like to see Finau do it. I’d love to see Tiger do it. I feel it’s Molinari’s day.”last_img read more

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