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Why the Masters telecast was so dull

jordan-spieth-12th-holeThere—I said it in a headline—the Masters was dull to watch. It is all about old bald guys in green jackets chattering away about the greatness of their tournament. It is about Jim Nantz talking in reverential and hushed tones about the greatness of Augusta. It is about avoiding any controversy at all costs, and piping in bird sounds even with a 20-mile an hour wind.

I couldn’t figure out why, for the life of me, we didn’t see any shot tracer on the Masters. Instead we saw shots off the tee—a fair number of them compared to other tournaments, which is surely a good thing—but they just disappeared into the sky and the pines. This baffles me, especially since the Masters website does a good job of showing where each shot ends up. Of course, the Masters website avoids all modern stats (you’re not getting any shots gained putting on it, which is kind of baffling for a course so connected to its greens), so it isn’t all good.

I understand tradition, but when it comes at the cost of good TV, but the lack of technology is kind of perplexing at this point.

But perhaps worst of all, this year’s Masters seemed to be about CBS trying to create a storyline and following that storyline even when it isn’t relevant any longer. The narrative CBS wanted was the one that emerged on Saturday—Jordan Spieth versus Rory McIlroy. At the very least they’d have taken Spieth versus Jason Day, but Day faded after coughing up a bunch of shots on the final holes on Thursday. CBS might have even been willing to swallow a Cinderella story like Symlie Kaufman coming out of nowhere to win. Of course he didn’t break 80 when paired in the final group on Sunday, something that should have been expected.

When McIlroy hacked his way into the trees at Augusta on Saturday, leaving Spieth with the lead, that storyline disappeared. That left CBS to essentially put the green jacket on Spieth’s back. The problem was there were 18 holes to play and Spieth apparently didn’t take the 150-yard 12th hole seriously enough.

I’m guessing Spieth, coming off two bogeys, thought he’d put his foot to the floor instead of simply making the safe shot. For all the talk about Spieth being wise beyond his years, could it be his ego that got in the way? As for the shot where he laid sod all over the ball, that just reinforced the notion that even the best players in the world hit it fat sometimes. In this case he did it in front of millions of people.

And I love the hyperbole from some pundits. One called it the “biggest collapse in major history.” Really? Greater than Norman’s collapse when he was six shots clear of Nick Faldo, only to shoot 78 and lose? And let’s be honest, there was no tragedy in Spieth’s loss—just a 22-year old with tens of millions of dollars laying sod over a shot because he made some dreadful decisions. No one died—he just melted down to a point where he couldn’t recover.

CBS, left without a storyline at that point as Danny Willett made a relatively easy four on the final hole (Why not a tougher pin position? When did the hole become a 3-wood, 7-iron, two putt hole?), seemed desperate for Spieth to make something happen. And for an instant that looked possible, with Spieth making a birdie on 15 and hitting it close on 16, though well above the hole. That putt ran by and Spieth—and CBS’s telecast—was all but over.

CBS certainly didn’t want Willett, in the fourth to last group, to take the tournament. After all, until Spieth’s implosion, he was all but an afterthought, a largely unknown English golfer who just happened to be the 12th ranked player in the world.

Will the 2016 Masters be known for Willett’s 67 on Sunday, or Spieth shooting 1-over? By the way, it isn’t like Spieth completely threw up on himself. It was more like there was a little bit of vomit on his shirt, but enough to be wiped away clean. He did shoot 73, but he did that Saturday as well.

Spieth’s quad on 12 is historic, but I have a feeling Danny Willett, a steady if somewhat unspectacular player (and by the way, Europeantour.com’s stats are pathetic for this day), is better than many think. His last few years show a player coming into his own.

We’ll see Spieth again soon—there’s no doubt about it. CBS will likely get the storyline they want time and again because the young Texan seems so at home at Augusta. But let’s hope next year CBS isn’t so hooked on a single narrative and that we throw some decade-old tech in as well.

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With a handful of holes left to play, Ottawa’s Brad Fritsch ended up in a playoff at the Web.com Tour event. I must admit I spent more time looking at my phone wondering about the outcome than I did watching the Masters at that point. Fritsch prevailed, making his return to the PGA Tour likely. As a journalist you’re not supposed to root for those you cover, but it is hard not to like Fritsch, who is outspoken, smart and engaging. He was almost in tears talking about his win—and I felt great for him. One of the game’s good guys.

 

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Feeling feisty and creative this weekend eh ? Good job Robert . Lots happening at TGA London these days my friend . We are about to launch Ladies only classes, a new junior league for kids ages 5 to 14 , Pre-K golf classes and loads of other new things. It has been tres bizzy as they say in Montreal.

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