They’re two of the most famous camera shots in Masters history. In fact, they might even be two of the most famous camera shots in golf history.
Roll back the tape and watch them both. There’s Tiger and Earl Woods, circa 1997. Tiger has just conquered the world, becoming the first Black golfer ever to win the Masters at the tender age of 21. Watch as tears well in Tiger’s eyes nestled in his father’s warmth — ‘WOODS’ emblazoned upon the back of Earl’s cap.
Now fast forward to 2021. There’s Hideki Matsuyama, the first Asian winner in tournament history. And there’s his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, fulfilling the traditional caddie duty of removing the 18th flag. Then watch as Shota bows quietly in acknowledgment of Augusta National.
What you don’t see — what you can’t see — is that the man on the other side of the lens for both shots is the same. His name is Eric Leidel, and he is one of CBS’s longest-tenured cinematographers (or cameramen, for the layman).
Leidel was a youngster at the Masters in ’97 when he hustled over to the area next to the 18th green with a camera on his shoulder. As luck would have it, he would punctuate his first Masters as a cameraman by grabbing Earl and Tiger in full embrace. It was the shot of the tournament — a moment that was replayed everywhere in the days following.
In 2021, Leidel succeeded legendary CBS Sports cameraman Davey Finch in the 18th Tower at Augusta National. As the tournament wrapped to his left and Hideki Matsuyama walked the path up to the clubhouse, Leidel spotted Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, headed toward the green. He trained his camera in the direction of the flagstick, careful to leave room at the top of the shot, and watched as Hayafuji grabbed the flag, removed it, and bowed toward the flag. Once again, Leidel had grabbed the shot of the tournament, which quickly made the rounds worldwide.
Down in Butler Cabin, Jim Nantz couldn’t believe his eyes.
“When [CBS Golf lead producer Sellers Shy] rolled it in, I was just awestruck,” Nantz said Wednesday. “The minute I laid eyes on it, it was so powerful. I called it the shot of the year in golf. Most times you would think it would be someone pulling off an up-and-down or a bunker shot that’s holed to win a tournament, but to me that was my favorite shot in golf. Just the respect that was shown for the opponent, and in this case, the course. It was extraordinary.”
That the shot was even captured is a testament to Leidel, Nantz explained Wednesday, who could’ve very easily been anywhere else.
“The action had long left that stage,” Nantz said. “He was up in the up in the tower alone and could have been breaking down at that point. He happened to just notice that the caddie was reentering the putting surface. So he took his camera, went over and framed it. Then he stayed with it.”
The resultant camera shot placed Leidel’s work firmly in the annals Masters history. Again.
“It’s that kind of ingenuity that kind of presence of mind. It’s an artist, really,” Nantz said. “He deserves all the credit in the world. We have great people. Their jobs are more meaningful than anyone’s, really. What they do to present the Masters through their lens is pretty amazing.”