Media Circus: Behind the scenes with CBS on Sergio Garcia's winning putt

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Media Circus: The 'What If's' of sports media
Thursday April 20th, 2017

The Masters is in the rearview mirror but I wanted to provide some insight into what was going on in the CBS broadcast compound at Augusta National during Sergio Garcia's championship-winning putt. It’s a glimpse of how some of the best people in the sports broadcasting business you’ve never heard of do what they do.

That group includes CBS golf director Steve Milton, who captured all the great moments for both the final hole of regulation and the playoff. Then there were the CBS on-green camera operators, who got close enough to hear Garcia wail in excitement after being embraced by his fiancée. The multiple replays of Garcia's winning shot and reaction were coordinated by producer Lance Barrow and replay producer Jim Rikhoff. (Particularly fantastic was a shot of Garcia's fiancée, Angela Akins, standing as he hit his shot, and then in sync, falling to her knees when Garcia went to his.) There was also a great close-up of Garcia, hat in his left hand, pumping his fist and screaming in delight. CBS’s 18th fairway operator, Bruce Levitt, was responsible for many of those images.

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“Doing it for 25 years, experience calms you down,” said Milton,

who has been directing Masters broadcasts since the early 1990s and whose first Masters as a fulltime director was 1997, when Tiger Woods won his first Green jacket. “We have had moments like that before. The good thing is there are just two guys left on the golf course and you have all the resources you need for 18. Once everything thins down, it’s actually calm in the production truck. No one is really nervous. No one is really excited. It’s just a poignant atmosphere that something great will happen because the Masters always delivers that.

Milton said during the live coverage of Garcia’s winning putt, he went through a familiar sequence for a golf director: First, you go wide, then you go tight. The goal is to capture every reaction you can from the scene.

“I was lucky in the sense that Sergio gave those primal yells after the putt went in,” said Milton, who also serves as the lead director for SEC football on CBS. “Then he composed himself and we went wide, so you could see all the crowd celebrating. Then he composed himself to shake Justin Rose’s hand. We stayed on Sergio for quite awhile because I did not want to miss any emotion coming from him after trying to win this thing for 20 years.”

Milton said the CBS production compound at the Masters (which sits next to the Par-3 course) had roughly 12 staffers in the main control room working the final holes. There was also an adjacent room with 12 people working on graphics. As the final shot was made, Barrow and Rikhoff were filtering the best replays. Rikhoff watches all the isolation shots directed by Milton and notes what will work for replay; Barrow decides in what order the replays will sequence to create narrative.

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CBS had 12 cameras available for replays at Hole No. 18 and Milton said the scarcity of other golfers on the course meant they could stack cameras and get all the angles needed. Levitt was able to freelance during the final holes with only Rose and Garcia in contention to get the great wide shots you saw. Will Baker, an on-course camera operator, was on the green when Garcia won. He got the great shots of Garcia embracing Akins. There was also a camera available on the ninth hole that was tall enough so CBS could get an additional wide shot at No. 18.

“Of course, you still need Sergio to make the initial putt because that provides the bigger moment of exhilaration,” Milton said. “It was good for us that the putt went in because of everything that happened after that. He could have just two-putted and we would not have had the same reactions from the crowd.

Milton said there was no fist-pumping in the compound after the final shot and replay sequences. The crew still had a lot more to do given the Butler Cabin setup. “Honestly, it’s all business in the truck until the end of the broadcast,” Milton said.

Well done.

The Noise Report

(SI.com examines some of the week’s most notable sports media stories)

1. Episode 114 of the Sports Illustrated Media podcast features sports broadcaster Kevin Harlan, who works for multiple outlets including Turner Sports, CBS Sports and Westwood One.

In this podcast, Harlan discusses preparing to call multiple series in multiple cities for TNT during the NBA playoffs; why the NFL is the hardest of the major sports to cover; why he thinks Doc Emrick is best suited for quick-twitch sports; how he morphed from calling Kansas City-area sports (Chiefs, Kings and Kansas athletics) to a national job; whether it’s good to be known for catchphrases such as “no regard for human life;” the reality of knowing he will never call an NBA Finals or a Super Bowl on television; the advice he gave his daughter Olivia, who works for ESPN and travels with the Atlanta Hawks for Fox Sports Southeast; how he’d approach calling the games of Olivia’s boyfriend (Sam Dekker, who plays for the Rockets); how he adjusts to new partners; the differences regarding the networks he works for; growing in up in Green Bay as the son of Packers CEO Bob Harlan; his now famous call from Sept. 2016 of a fan running onto the field during a Monday Night Football game between the 49ers and Rams; why he remains not altogether comfortable with doing that call; his fondness for Doug Collins, and much more.

 

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

2. On Wednesday I spoke to Phil Simms and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus about the decision to replace Simms with former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Here’s the piece.

2a. Some pieces worth reading on the death of Aaron Hernandez:

• Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel: Aaron Hernandez exhibited the slightest change in his final days.

• The MMQB’s Albert Breer: Aaron Hernandez’s Suicide: The Questions We’re Left Asking.

• The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins: Aaron Hernandez was no innocent bystander in a bloodstained life.

• SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg: Aaron Hernandez's brother retraces former NFL star's path.

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3. Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand reported this week that Rikhoff will be the top producer overseeing CBS’s top Sunday afternoon NFL games and Thursday Night Football. Rikhoff spent the past three seasons as the replay producer for Thursday Night Football.

4. HBO announced that the Bucs will be the franchised featured on Hard Knocks this season. The five-episode season debuts August 8 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. The show will debut subsequent Tuesdays at the same time, with encore plays Wednesday nights, culminating in the Sept. 5 season finale. Here’s SI.com’s Bette Marston on the storylines the show should focus on.

5. On the heels of ESPN’s 30 for 30 on the famed sports-talk show “Mike and the Mad Dog,” Sirius XM host Chris Russo discussed with SI Now’s Maggie Gray the possibility of working again with Mike Francesa of New York’s WFAN-AM.

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