Monday, October 15, 2007

One boo-yah and you're gone

Please tell us there will be no ‘boo-yahs’ at the Masters.

That was the first thought that came to mind last week when news broke that ESPN will take over first- and second-round coverage of the Masters beginning next April.

Talk about an odd fit.

The Masters is all things traditional, right down to the white bread on its pimento cheese sandwiches.

ESPN is all about being cool, hip and loving itself.

Now they are married, or at least engaged for a year. The Masters believes in one-year television contracts and you can believe ESPN’s treatment of the world’s best golf tournament will be carefully crafted to fit the template.

For years, the first two rounds of the Masters have been on USA Network, but it’s getting out of the golf business.

ESPN has essentially been out of the golf biz since the PGA Tour decided to put its weekday product on The Golf Channel, a questionable decision given that ESPN reaches the non-converted as well as the devout golf fan, unlike TGC which is for those of us too close to our 6-irons.

By shifting the telecasts to ESPN, it broadens the potential audience even more, enhancing the vision of tournament chairman Billy Payne, who is doing a nice job of embracing the past, the present and the future at the Masters and Augusta National.

And, it’s better than a safe guess that Mr. Payne doesn’t want to hear any ‘boo-yahs’ when somebody holes a 15-footer for birdie at the 12th hole.

The face of ESPN’s Masters coverage will be Mike Tirico, who gets golf and won’t try to make it about himself, like too many of his ESPN colleagues tend to do.

He will host the show while the regulars from CBS Sports - David Feherty, Peter Kostis, Peter Oosteruis, et. al - will handle their usual duties.

ESPN will do right by the Masters.

The Masters wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More changes at Augusta National

There have been more changes to Augusta National Golf Club, though none will have a dramatic impact on the course.

Change, of course, is perpetual at Augusta National, though most of what has been done in recents was to enhance spectator viewing during the Masters each April.

Four holes - Nos. 1, 7, 9 and 11 - underwent modifications while the club was closed during the summer.

The Masters tee at the first hole was extended 10 yards in the front to accommodate the possibility of a strong northwest wind while the back of the tee was reduced to help spectator flow. The length of the hole - 455 yards - didn’t change.

At the seventh and ninth holes, the greens were slightly altered for agronomic reasons, adding a couple of hole locations on both.

At No. 11, more trees were removed along the right side of the fairway to enhance spectator viewing.

The other significant adjustment was to create more spectator seating on the hill to the left side of the par-3 16th hole. The enhanced viewing area will allow more than 2,000 fans to watch play on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mickelson apparently enjoyed Montreal

Behind the scenes at the Presidents Cup:

During the Americans' press conference Sunday evening, Phil Mickelson was asked about his singles pairing with Vijay Singh with the questioner alluding to the anticipation surrounding the match.

"Why?" Lefty deadpanned.

It's no secret. Mickelson and Singh aren't friendly with each other and they didn't talk much on the course. Phil did manage to get in a little jab later while talking about one of Singh's par saves.

"He was like 50 yards left of the green on No. 4 and looked like he had no shot," Lefty said.

"He and I have played a lot of golf together the last month or so and, I guess you play enough golf with someone you start to play like them. He was hitting it like I usually do and getting it up and down."

Even Tiger broke up laughing.

Mickelson evidently kept up a steady stream of chatter with his teammates through the week. When Mickelson was asked to expound on a question, Woody Austin piped up, "Don't encourage it."

Phil was even playful with Tiger, more evidence their supposed cold war was history.

When players were asked where they would donate their money from the event, Lefty volunteered to speak for Tiger, who seemed amused.

"The Tiger Woods Foundation will be receiving Tiger's and I can tell you about the Tiger Foundation," he said.

"It was a $25-million commitment. It's a place where a lot of inner city youth can go and study and play golf and learn. And he's going to do one in Washington, D.C. I say this because I do know what he's doing and I think it's incredible. He has an ability to make an impact on so many people's lives and he takes advantage of that opportunity and we're all appreciative."

Asked about his own foundation, Mickelson said, "I know a little bit about that, too."