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What it’s like hosting SportsCenter at the Masters

sportscenter masters matt barrie

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Everything at the Masters is larger than life. Well, except for the television studio.

On a rainy Tuesday in Augusta, the studio building lurched from the ground in a heap of white. The home of untold hours of Masters television was barely noticeable in its perch between the trees. Turn your head the wrong way down the promenade adjacent to the practice range and you might miss it altogether.

In the case of the studio, we’re using ‘home’ literally. From the outside, the building looks indiscernible from your typical two-story house. White columns guard the front door. Windows poke out into the world outside. A walkway bisects a neatly manicured lawn.

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This is the Masters life of Matt Barrie, who’s sitting in a metal chair on the front porch. The SportsCenter host is one of the lucky few who have adopted the Augusta National television studio as an April vacation home.

During tournament week, ESPN’s corner of the studio is his living room … if you could call it that. It’s a studio all right — roughly the same size of a studio apartment in midtown Manhattan — and on a busy morning in Augusta, this studio can fill with as many as 10 people.

Augusta National’s ESPN studio does have a trump card over the studio apartments of New York City, though. When the sun is shining, a garage door opens to reveal a massive, open-air view of the most beautiful driving range on earth.

Barrie, who is now 43, has been around the sports world a few times over. First as a local television sports reporter in such rugged locales as Wausau, Wis., and Lawton, Okla.; and later as a host extraordinaire for ESPN. He’ll be crunched into the Augusta National studio hosting “SportsCenter” live reports for ESPN for the better part of the week. It’ll be his 10th Masters for the network, but he admits he’d host SC from a broom closet if it meant spending tournament week in Augusta.

“I was on cloud nine,” Barrie says, flashing a grin as he tells the story of his first Masters TV assignment for ESPN. “I was running around the house. To go sit there with Andy North and Curtis Strange on a weekend at the Masters. It was a dream.”

The life of a “SportsCenter” Host during Masters week is a nomadic one, Barrie admits. As the tournament advances the schedule grows less predictable by the hour.

“I got in town Sunday, and then started doing the SportsCenter stuff Monday morning. Then SportsCenter Tuesday. I’ll do all of that through Friday. I’ll do all of our SportsCenter lead-in coverage on Saturday from 3-7 p.m, and then I’ll do the post-coverage show at 7:30. Then I’ll call feature holes — holes no. 4, 5 and 6 — for ESPN+…

“So, you know, sleep is optional,” he says with a laugh, though I’m fairly sure he’s only half-kidding.

Matt Barrie will be a long way from ESPN’s behemoth Bristol SportsCenter studio this week. ESPN

Still, there is one certainty to Barrie’s week: Tiger Woods.

“Every minute of TV I’ve done so far has been Tiger-related,” He says. “He is the needle. I mean, Monday felt like a Saturday. You could tell there was a hum, that something was different going on.”

Of course, the 15-time major champion hasn’t officially announced his intention to play in this week’s Masters, but his mere existence at the tournament is more than ESPN, or anyone employed by the network, anticipated.

After all, it was Barrie who broke the news of Tiger’s near-life-ending crash in 2021 to the world on ESPN just 14 months ago.

“I was waiting for the producer to get in my ears and tell me, ‘Tiger Woods is dead,'” Barrie says, remembering that fateful day. “Then I was gonna have to be the person to tell the sports world on ESPN that we’ve lost Tiger Woods.”

Should Tiger return to the sports world on the 1st tee at Augusta National at 10:34 a.m. on Thursday morning, Barrie will once again be the man to deliver the news.

“To be able to be on air at the time,” Barrie says. “At 10:34, it’ll be my pleasure to say, ‘Let’s go to the 1st tee box to watch Tiger Woods return to the Masters,’ and not say another word. Just let the viewer have it.”

Moments like these, Barrie says, are when ESPN’s Augusta National studio comes alive. All 500 square feet of it.

“Now he’s gonna miss the fairway on No. 1 — that doesn’t matter,” Barrie says with a laugh. “It will be Tiger Woods walking the course at Augusta National. It’s going to be one of the great comeback stories ever from a guy who already gave us that.”

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