CBS’s coverage of the dramatic final holes at the Masters earns high marks

April 10, 2017

CBS golf analyst Nick Faldo set the stage nicely as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose ambled up to the 18th hole of Augusta National shortly before 7:00 p.m. EST on Sunday.

“It is in every sense of the word match play,” Faldo said. “One hole.”

CBS delivered on that hole, from great visuals of Rose hitting his drive, to multiple angles of Garcia missing a chance to win from five feet, to a slo-mo replay of Rose and Garcia embracing before heading to the clubhouse prior to the playoffs.

I don’t watch a lot of golf — your caveat for this column — but I thought CBS was terrific on the final two holes, which is when they needed to be. The network first broadcast the Masters tournament 61 years ago — they provided an hour of coverage on Saturday and Sunday and only covered holes 15 through 18 — and as golf viewers know, CBS has always provided the requisite reverence the club demands. Even for those viewers who find issues with some of the saccharine coverage, CBS knows this course cold and they were all over the storylines as sudden death approached.

First, there was a quick recap of Garcia and Rose’s final round and how they separated themselves from the pack on the final day. Then we saw the golfers walking back from the clubhouse to be ferried to the course. Next, a beautiful standing shot of the flagpin at the par-4 18th. Faldo diagnosed Rose’s options on his second shot after a poor tee shot before Nantz and Faldo let Garcia’s second shot breathe for viewers.

Where CBS’s production team was at its absolute best was on Garcia’s championship-winning putt. You can quibble that Nantz talked over the moment (“After so many years, once and for all for Sergio!”) but Nantz’s reverence for golf always comes off genuine to me. The A-plus stuff came from director Steve Milton, who captured all the great moments around the 18th. The CBS field operators got close enough to hear Garcia wail in excitement after being embraced by his fiancée on the green. There was also a great shot of Rose staring at the scene in front of him and there was Nantz, oddly, shouting out Garcia’s haters (“You’re wrong again!”) before Faldo offered nice perspective on why Garcia had not won in the past and why he won through the “mental scar tissue.”

Best of all were the multiple replays of Garcia’s winning shot, framed on all sides including from behind the bunker. (CBS’s 18th fairway operator is Bruce Levitt — give that man a raise!) Particularly fantastic was a shot of Garcia’s fiancée standing as he hit the 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 also lucked into Rose being the runner-up in the sense that he gave an absolute class interview to reporter Dottie Pepper after losing the title.

Finally, we saw really nice narration by CBS analyst Ian Baker-Finch to the pictures on the screen: “What a memorable weekend it has been.” Baker-Finch said. “Two great friends. If ever you were going to lose a major championship, you would want to lose it to Sergio because he deserves it. And the world of golf loves Sergio and love the fact that he is now the 2017 Masters champion. So thoroughly well deserved, and so many years in the making.”

Nice work.