How Rory McIlroy, Max Homa stumbled into a groundbreaking Masters TV moment

rory mcilroy's masters walk and talk

Rory McIlroy's Thursday Masters walk-and-talk shocked the golf world.

Darren Riehl/GOLF

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Nobody expected Augusta National to listen to CBS’s boldest Masters request. Not even the person making it.

“As of right now, there’s nothing scheduled for the walk and talk,” CBS Golf lead producer Sellers Shy said in a pre-tournament press call last week.

The implied meaning of Shy’s answer was obvious to everyone.

Don’t get your hopes up.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve done [with the walk-and-talk],” Shy said. “But as you know, we have properly planted mics within the course and my guess is you will get the exact quality audio that we’ve gotten here in the past.”

It qualified as stunning, then, when Thursday’s Masters broadcast featured not one walk-and-talk interview, but two of them. As the afternoon pairings made the turn for home, Jim Nantz was on-hand to break the news.

“And while we have a moment,” Nantz said. “Let’s turn to Rory McIlroy, who has been kind enough to join us.”

Later in the afternoon, Max Homa poured in his first birdie of the day on No. 13, and followed suit with CBS’s Andrew Catalon.

“I’m very happy I made my first birdie before I had to talk to you guys,” he said with a laugh.

McIlroy and Homa qualified as natural fits for the inaugural Masters walk-and-talk. That duo has become one of the sport’s most prolific voices over these last 12 months, and their efforts in the early days of CBS’s PGA Tour walk-and-talk segments helped to entrench the interview as an important piece of coverage.

But their decision to step into the limelight qualified as a surprise even to the two of them. As McIlroy revealed after his round, the walk-and-talk wasn’t confirmed until days before the start of play.

“The club reached out to us last week and just inquired if I would be interested in doing it,” he said. “I thought it would be a cool thing to do.”

Homa waited even longer for the club to ask.

“I think they asked me yesterday,” he said with a laugh. “So I was pretty surprised. I think they were pretty surprised.”

The timing of Augusta National’s decision-making qualifies as noteworthy. The Masters doesn’t often make last-second decisions, and particularly not as it relates to the tournament broadcast. While a club official, ESPN and CBS all declined comment, it’s believed the Augusta National membership, particularly the Masters media committee, was instrumental in giving the segment the green light.

“If you only looked on the surface, I would say, yeah, I am surprised,” Homa said. “But Augusta National has done a good job pushing the envelope on golf. They are traditional, take-our-hats-off-inside type of place, but at the same time, they have the Drive, Chip and Putt here. They have the ANWA here. They’ve done a lot of things behind the scenes to push golf forward.”

It should be stated that there were no shortage of excuses for McIlroy, Homa or Augusta National to do away with the interview. The club is famously neurotic about its television image, and historically slow to adopt less-intrusive updates like shot tracers and drone shots. (In another example of the club’s slow march toward TV innovation, the Masters didn’t show its front nine on television until 1997.) In its 68th consecutive one-year agreement with CBS, the walk-and-talk represented the kind of unnecessary distraction the Masters typically avoids.

But some distractions are worth the hassle. In the case of the walk-and-talk, this was uniquely true.

“I mean, it’s like being on a phone call for 10 minutes. It’s not the end of the world,” said Homa. “It might be a shade distracting, but I think if it’s 5 percent distracting and it’s 95 percent something positive for golf, I can get past that.”

“I was wondering what they were going to ask me more so than what I was going to say,” McIlroy added.

Network and club officials wouldn’t confirm if we’d get another walk-and-talk as the weekend progressed. It’s possible that could prove a bridge too far for Augusta National. Or, as with Thursday, it’s possible the club could instead find itself leading the charge.

As Homa was asked about his rationale behind interrupting his round to chat on Thursday at a major championship, he flashed a grin.

“If Augusta National wants you to do something for the Masters,” Homa said, pausing. “I think you say yes.”

James Colgan 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