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Media Buffet: From Drones to Sir Nick, CBS Covered Masters with Style and Sensibility

Like many golf fans, John Hawkins spent the weekend on the couch. He mostly enjoyed what he saw, especially those incredible clubhouse drone tours.
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The latest Tiger Woods Comeback Show, formally known as the 2022 Masters, had storylines with legs from start to finish, which makes total sense now that we know Eva Longoria is a head-over-heels golf nut. She might not hit it very far, but as the new AT&T commercial suggests, the diminutive actress definitely packs a wallop.

Surprise, surprise? Woods made the cut with room to spare, hogging the spotlight (shocker) with uncommon valiance until Scottie Scheffler grabbed the tournament by the throat and didn’t loosen his grip until he started playing Ping-Pong on the 18th green Sunday evening. Right down to the last drop, even with the outcome decided, the 86th gathering at Augusta National featured a distinct preference for creating curiosity.

Nearly all of this intrigue was handled deftly by CBS, which has televised the Masters since 1956 but rarely with more style and sensibility. Second-year lead producer Sellers Shy presided over an optically marvelous presentation. Although it would be sacrilegious not to bombard viewers with beauty shots of the course itself, the best visual component to last weekend’s telecast was the collection of drone tours inside the clubhouse — a building very few golf fans will ever occupy.

Perhaps a half-dozen of these little gems aired over the final two rounds. Each lasted somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute, enhanced to superb effect by running the footage at a high speed. With the camera lens as your guide, the entire interior of the clubhouse was covered in basically three minutes overall. Perfect for shrinking attention spans. An exclusive peek. Beautifully executed.

If ESPN’s streaming option lacked the polish one would expect from a tournament of such magnitude — more on that later — CBS rose to the occasion by reminding us of a time when the network offered insight to its audience on a weekly basis. Sir Nick Faldo awoke from his annual winter slumber to carry the operation throughout the final 36 holes. He read putts like a guy who has caddied at the club for 40 years. He provided invaluable expertise on two of his favorite topics: course strategy and the ramifications of pressure.

Barely 15 minutes after Sir Nick pointed out that every Masters Sunday is a topsy-turvy ride with sharp turns and detours, Scheffler’s chip-in for birdie at the third — followed by Smith’s bogey from the same spot — swung the momentum quite a bit faster than Longoria’s clubhead speed. CBS’ lead analyst spoke like a man who had just the right amount of coffee in him, feeding those watching at home with heaping portions of the stuff that made him a six-time major champion.

Faldo was spot-on, as they say in his homeland, leaving us to wonder why he doesn’t analyze pro golf at such a high level every time he plops his fanny in the booth. Has he done too many events over the last quarter-century? Does he find it difficult to get motivated over the prospect of calling the action at yet another Charles Schwab Challenge? Faldo’s knowledge of the game is not an issue. His willingness to articulate that strength is what comes and goes. At the sacred old ballyard where he won three times, there isn’t a person on earth who does a better job of augmenting the coverage.

While all the hero worship accorded to Woods was both understandable and somewhat trite, the anti-Tiger legion must have chagrined the heavy dose of love poured on their heads last week. More than ever, the business of televising sports strongly favors viewer appeal and entertainment zeal over journalistic principle. Calling Woods’ competitive presence at the Masters a “miracle,” as did several on-air voices at both CBS and ESPN, was to suffer from a loss of balance on the ground floor of perspective.

That’s TV nowadays. Never a dull moment, even when there’s a dull moment.

For all the positives to emerge from the ESPN stream at last month’s Players Championship, the Masters product was plagued by some obvious weaknesses. Shane Bacon is not a suitable anchor for a show that lasts five or six hours and is completely devoid of auxiliary devices such as graphics and replays. Analyst Colt Knost has shown promise during his brief time at CBS, but he lacks the depth and versatility to enlighten viewers over a period of any considerable length.

Together, they left one wishing CBS came on the air earlier than the middle of the afternoon. Especially at a tournament where there are few commercial interruptions, which is the ultimate redundancy but perhaps the best aspect of tuning in to an alternative source.

Of course, streaming still beats waiting for the soap operas to end. The Masters is no exercise in fake drama, nor does fresh information ever disappoint. Faldo’s bit on how Charl Schwartzel dug up tapes of his 2011 victory in search of swing keys was a real pearl. And for all the mindless yapping about Scheffler, nothing was better than Andrew Catalon’s insight on the winner’s intense competitive demeanor.

Never-heard info from people who would know. A couple of nice anecdotes to boot. We still call that journalism. Catalon doesn’t get nearly as much airtime as he should. If CBS honchos weren’t so enamored of former players with foreign accents, they’d dump the cliché-addled Trevor Immelman and put Catalon to better use.

Maybe that’s a nitpick, maybe it’s common sense. One thing that can’t be disputed is the excellent wire-to-wire performance CBS delivered last week to the year’s biggest TV audience. To call it a miracle would be absurd. It’s merely acknowledgment from the ground floor of perspective. Sure footing optional.

More 2022 Masters Coverage From Morning Read:

- Scheffler Wins Masters to Claim First Career Major
- Weekly Read: What's Next for Tiger Woods?
- McIlroy Leaves Augusta Happy At Last After Sunday 64
- Scheffler Aces His Major Test
- 'Rory Roars' Fill Augusta National as McIlroy Delights
- Tiger Woods Says He Intends to Play British Open at St. Andrews
- Woods Recognizes This Masters Was One of His Best Moments
- Final Payouts, Prize Money for Everyone in the Field
- Sports Illustrated's Best Photos From 2022 Masters