CBS Sports should be heralded for a fine broadcast of Sunday’s final round of The Masters, however the coverage once the final putt sank deserves a bogey in one major regard.
Throughout the day, CBS did a nice job of balancing the plethora of TV-friendly storylines from Phil Mickelson’s emotional battle to Tiger Woods’ return to Fred Couples trying to turn back the hands of time. Voices like Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist were solidly balanced between setting up the drama without too often falling into the easy trap of hyperbole.
In full HD, the pictures from Augusta as always were fantastic, and the mix of live and taped coverage was a well-executed dance to show all the leaders’ shots, while mixing in the odd hole-in-one (or two) from the also-rans.
And the Tiger situation was treated as it should on a Sunday at a major: focused on the golf. Woods’ antics during the tournament - his typical mix of profanity and other actions that make any parent watching with a child cringe - showed that his promise to improve his behavior on the course was about as credible as his marriage vow. But by Sunday that was old news, and CBS rightfully just focused on the golf during the round.
The ratings will no doubt be massive, and the ending was storybook: Mickelson sinking a birdie putt on 18 and then walking over to embrace his wife, who has been battling breast cancer.
And that’s when the broadcast fell down. Mickelson is known as a regular guy, beloved by golf fans devoted and casual. They all deserved to hear from him right then, in that wonderful, emotional moment. I wanted to. My wife, sitting next to me, wanted to. It would have made wonderful television, a perfect ending to a great broadcast.
Instead, all viewers got was a rather quick, watered-down interview in the Butler Cabin several minutes later. Nantz tried his best to touch the emotional button (I actually harkened back to Cuba Gooding Jr. telling Roy Firestone, “I’m not gonna cry,” in “Jerry Maguire”), but Mickelson didn’t take the bait.
I understand The Masters is done a certain way from a television standpoint, and change there is famously rare. But this time the viewers lost out. Mickelson is the people’s champion, and they deserved to hear from him live, right in the midst of one of the best moments in recent sport history. A quick couple questions right before or after he signed his scorecard would have given CBS Sports a signature soundbyte to cap off a true shining moment.
Instead, it was a disappointing ending to an otherwise glorious day of golf.