Jim Nantz denies Phil Mickelson Masters TV coverage ‘shadowban’

Jim Nantz says CBS fairly covered Phil Mickelson's stunning runner-up finish at the Masters.

Darren Riehl

It seems just about everyone was surprised by Phil Mickelson’s stunning charge up the leaderboard on Masters Sunday. Even the people responsible for covering it.

Shock is one of the reasons Mickelson was largely left out of CBS’s final-round coverage at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon, even as the three-time Masters champion pulled off an astonishing runner-up finish. But, Jim Nantz says, an intentional “shadow-ban” of Phil or his LIV counterparts from appearing in the final-round broadcast coverage, as some suggested, was not at play.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated‘s Jimmy Traina, Nantz denied rumors that CBS deliberately restrained its coverage of LIV players during the Masters, offering a more rational excuse for the perception surrounding Phil’s disappearance from tournament coverage.

“If you went back and looked at the full coverage on Sunday, including Sunday morning, the finishing up of the third round, our guys were really on Phil,” Nantz said. “Part of it is optics, when you look at the leaderboard at the end and you see that Phil’s tied for second, you think, ‘Well, my gosh, they must have been on him all day.’”

In Nantz’s opinion, CBS’s coverage actually showed a fair amount of Phil throughout Sunday (the early portion of the day included rain-delayed third-round coverage). If Mickelson’s coverage felt light on Sunday afternoon, Nantz said the reasoning was simple: the first time he truly entered the conversation all day came on the 18th green.

“With two holes to play, he was tied for fifth with eight other guys at six under par, and he happens to be facing two holes that you’re lucky if you come through there unscathed in 17 and 18,” Nantz said. “The odds are, if you had to make a prediction on it as you stood on the 17th tee, he’s probably going to make bogey on one of the last two holes and he’ll finish in the top 10. To Phil’s enormous credit, he knocked it to an inch in 17 and made birdie. We showed his entire playing of 18, and all of the sudden he finishes birdie-birdie, and it was a tremendous close by him.”

Of course, in hindsight, clubhouse leader Phil Mickelson probably would have earned some extra love from CBS. But in the moment, it was hard to know that Phil was going to make the charge he did.

Consider last year’s Masters, when a very similar situation happened with clubhouse leader Rory McIlroy, who shot 64 on Sunday to vault himself into a solo runner-up finish. In that instance, CBS earned similar criticism for its coverage of McIlroy’s charge up the back nine. Cameras even failed to show McIlroy’s miraculous chip-in birdie on the 72nd hole live, opting instead for a highly controversial (and briefly spoiled) tape-delay replay.

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The lesson, for both players, is the same: nobody’s happy when coverage misses a key moment, but nobody knows what’s the moment of the tournament, and what’s just a flash in the pan.

“At the end, the leaderboard looks like, ‘Well, he should have gotten that much coverage because he finished second,’” Nantz said. “But you don’t know how it’s all going to play out in the end. There was no effort at all by anybody at CBS to treat anyone any differently.”

Ultimately, Nantz said, CBS’s mission was to show the golf tournament. If they missed out on an important part of it with Phil, so be it, but it certainly wasn’t by design.

“Phil has been a buddy of mine for a long time,” Nantz said. “There was no effort to conceal him or hide him at all.”

Phil Mickelson charged up the Masters leaderboard on Sunday. Getty Images

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.