ESPN! Stephen A. And Kellerman Trash Golf, Do We Care?

Golf has needed ESPN but since losing or waving goodbye to the many golf properties they once enjoyed rights to, not so much.

ESPN the television network makes clear it needs golf once a year when the Masters rolls around (ESPN.com still shows great interest in and respect for covering the sport with their team of Harig, Sobel, O'Connor, Collins, Maguire, Wojciechowski, etc.). But as we saw with last week's no-golf Sportscenter in between live broadcasts and the round replays, golf seems to be an annoyance these days.

Still, the ignorance and disrepect shown by Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman takes things that may have the golf world no longer caring what the network thinks of our sport.

Let's get to the comments first as transcribed by Joe DePaolo (do watch the Mediaite embed as the tone is worse than the transcript.) Here is Stephen A lamenting the sportsmanship shown by Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose's:

This notion that we’re really not competing against each other. We’re really just playing golf and it’s really competing against the course. Nonsense. There’s a game to be played. Each of you go out there to do it. You’re trying to compete at a level that eclipses the individuals that are also on the course. Last time I checked, that’s competition.

He added: “I damn near told them to get a room. It was ridiculous, how they were with one another…I want to see you rooting for the other to fail.”

These comments were the most-noticed and they are silly given that Sergio and Rose did not walk arm-and-arm up the playoff hole. Even sillier when you have to know the heartbreak Rose the competitor feels in those moments and yet shows such respect.

Sure, there is a discussion to be had for players helping each other out by leaving balls down as backboards, or a softening of competitive edges due to the immense amount of money in the sport.

However, I feel the comments from Max Kellerman, Stephen A's colleague on First Take, speak to a lack of knowledge within the Worldwide Leader that is perplexing. He questions golf's "status as a sport" and then...

I would define a sport as a competition through which you accurately gauge the athleticism of its participants. And I don’t think that’s the case with golf. Among its many flaws…this ain’t Ali going at Frazier. They’re not throwing punches. They’re not tackling each other. They’re not in each other’s way. Golf is not a zero sum game. It’s more like a standardized test.

Needless to say we know some of the greatest athletes in the world have said they admire golf as a sport and have profound respect for their fellow athletes.

What's troubling is that a network we once relied on for balancing smart with entertaining coverage and for knowing where to draw the line on First Team All-American ignorance, even allows such an uninformed discussion to take place.

Mercifully, golf goes off ESPN's radar now until next year at The Masters. If there is a next year for ESPN.

Let's Savor Sergio's Masters Win A Little Longer

Scanning the coverage of Sergio Garcia's 2017 Masters win, I noticed a fair number of stories looking ahead to the next major, wondering who is the next great player without a major and other random stories designed to generate clicks.

While The Players and BMW Championship will offer intrigue this year with renovated holes and so many players looking to move on from Masters disappoint, we have the bleak Erin Hills experience looming as the opposite of last week's joyful intrigue. So why rush?

A day later, the magnitude of Sergio's playoff win may not have sunk in.

--He finally has his first major after a historic number of opportunities.

--His play on the two back nine par-5s will join the highlight reels of best Masters moments.

--A lifelong drawer of the ball, Garcia won hitting a fade on a course that some feel strongly favors a right-to-left shot shape.

No matter how you feel about his behavior and attitude at times, golf fans should find it hard to ignore his incredible consistency, persistence even when he clearly mailed in some moments, and, in the last year, his maturation. (It is no coincidence this has happened since Angela Akins came into his life.)

In his USA Today lede, Steve DiMeglio referenced another chapter was looming in the "Shakespearean tragedy" that is Garcia's golf career.

Doug Ferguson's lede focused on the staggering numbers, especially as we stare down an upcoming era of careers shortened by money.

Eighteen years and 71 majors later, more tears for Sergio Garcia.

This time, they were accompanied by a smile.

Bill Fields summed up for Masters.com why we might even be in shock still that Sergio Garcia won a major.

People have been expecting Garcia to win a major ever since he burst onto the scene as a skinny 19-year-old and finished second to Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, playing with joy and flair and the talent that said someday soon.

The skills never went away, because Garcia has been one of the purest ball-strikers of his generation, the primary reason he had 22 combined victories on the European Tour and PGA Tour prior to the 81st Masters. His putting can go hot or cold, but his attitude has been the anchor holding him back from more.

Randall Mell at GolfChannel.com took it a step further.

Sergio Garcia pulled off one of the great upsets of the modern era Sunday at the Masters.

Yes, few folks outside Garcia’s inner circle believed he could actually win a major championship, much less a green jacket, with such a formidable history of painful losses stacked against him, but the nature of this upset was even more stunning than that.

Over four hours at Augusta National, Garcia won the hearts and minds of American golf fans.
That’s your monumental upset.

Jaime Diaz of Golf World summarizes the backlash toward Garcia that may have prolonged his major chase.

In retrospect, Garcia suffered the backlash that often confronts sports prodigies. Used to both overwhelming their competition with talent and generally getting their way, being thrown in with older peers with more competitive grit and more polished skills can be jarring, especially when the expectations that were thrust upon them so early are, if anything, adjusted up. In Garcia’s case, he ran smack into the prime of Woods, a figure who, because he showed no mercy competitively, was especially chilly to potential rivals, and got into Garcia’s head. For the first eight years of Garcia’s career, the harder he tried to beat Woods, the more convincingly and dishearteningly he lost.

About that shot on 15 and the ensuing putt, it's the moment patrons on sight will forever remember and one of the best shots/putts/roars we've seen in years.

ESPN.com's Kevin Van Valkenburg on that moment and "one of the great finishing duels in Masters history."

How will you remember the 2017 tournament? I'll remember it, perhaps strangely, for the unplayable lie Garcia took in the azaleas at No. 13, and then the two perfect shots he hit to give himself an 8-foot par putt that he somehow made.

"I feel like if he misses at that point, I make, I'm four clear and I've got my eye on Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar instead," Rose said.

Without that moment of steely determination, which oddly came at the same time Rose began to spray his irons and drives like Sunday Sergio of old, we might never have the biggest shot of the tournament, Garcia's second shot into 15, which kissed the flagstick and came to rest in a spot where Garcia had a makeable eagle putt. Even Garcia conceded as much.

So let's wait a few days to look forward and focus on the recent past just a little bit longer...

2017 Masters Ratings Wrap: Final Round Down 11%, ESPN Streaming Way Up

As with ESPN's ratings drop, I suspect some context is needed to fully understand the drop in CBS ratings thar surprises a bit given the quality of the leaderboard. However, with the exceptional coverage online that can stream in places never before imagined, it would seem inevitable that ratings should decline.

On the other hand, perhaps this is an opening for a serious dialogue about how golf is presented on television.

Either way, let's start with Austin Karp's Tweets for SBJ:

 

ESPN's ratings were down but they did reveal streaming numbers that would suggest audience went to other means of watching. For immediate release:

Masters Tournament Coverage Earns ESPN’s Highest Streaming Numbers Ever

ESPN wrapped up its live coverage of the first and second rounds of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday, April 7, with its highest streaming numbers ever for the two days.

Golf fans streamed a record 25.8 million total minutes, a five percent increase from 2016, and the two-day average minute audience of 46,812 was up three percent from the 2016 record of 45,313. Friday’s second round stream from 3-7:30 p.m. ET earned a record average minute audience of 49,038 viewers.

The success story for the Masters on ESPN digital platforms also included a record two-day average of 961,000 unique visitors to golf content on the ESPN App, an increase of 34 percent over 2016. Also, a two-day average of 1.3 million daily unique visitors went to golf content on ESPN.com. Across all ESPN digital platforms, the two-day average minute audience of 23,000 people on golf content was a 14 percent increase from 2016.

ESPN’s live telecast of the second round of the Masters on Friday earned a 1.8 rating, averaging 2.603 million viewers. The telecast peaked at a 2.0 rating between 6-6:30 p.m. Last year’s telecast of the second round earned a 2.2 rating and an average viewership of 3.060 million viewers. 

Orlando, Fla., was the nation’s highest-rated metered market with a 4.0 rating for Friday’s telecast, followed by Greenville, S.C., at 3.9; San Diego at 3.2; and Greensboro, N.C., and Norfolk, Va., tied at 3.0.s

Completing the top 10 metered markets were Louisville, Ky., at 2.9; Cleveland and Memphis, tied at 2.8; and Tampa-St. Petersburg and Oklahoma City, tied at 2.7.

The Friday telecast completed ESPN’s two days of live Masters coverage, but SportsCenter and ESPN.comwill continue to report from the event throughout the weekend.

 Golf Channel's debut of Jack following Live From The Masters went well:

Last night’s 1st episode of Jack (.24 overnight rating) matched 2 of 3 episodes of Arnie, which premiered following the 2014 Masters. This makes Jack the highest-rated Golf Films project in three years, exceeding 4 other projects in that span (Payne, Arnie & Me, Crenshaw: A Walk Through Augusta, ‘86). Live+3 final data will be available later this week. Episode 2 of Jack premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

ShackHouse: Sergio Garcia Wins The Masters

Hot after the thrilling finish, House and I talk all things 2017 Masters: Sergio, Justin, the course, the broadcast, the bets and the performances.

The link is here on Soundcloud.

You can subscribe on iTunes.

Here is The Ringer's show page.

We are wrapping up special Masters coverage from The Ringer's ShackHouse with a very, very special giveaway from Odyssey: the O-Works One-Wide Putter complete with the Microhinge insert and the awesome commemorative Arnold Palmer headcover you’re seeing the Callaway Pros with this week at Augusta.
 
Get over to the Callaway Community and sign up, enter a comment in the giveaway thread with the year Arnie won his third green jacket.

2017 Masters Final Round Preview And Comment Thread

The potential for a day unlike any other is there, with benign conditions, a softened course vulnerable to a low round, and a fantastic leaderboard. I'm dreaming of a classic, hope you are too.

As of 817 votes, 32% of you think Justin Rose will win, 26% Jordan Spieth

The leaderboard.

Golfweek.com's Live blog

All of the Masters.com live coverage is in operation.

Featured Groups are off and running.

Amen Corner should be a go around 12:30 ET.

Golf Channel's Live From is on until CBS starts coverage at 2 pm.

Remember, CBS has the half-hour special on Phil at 12:30 pm ET, followed by Jim Nantz Remembers on Arnold Palmer from 1-2.

Also, Amen Corner Live commences when play reaches the 11th hole, while other Masters.com coverage like Featured Group and 15/16, Masters On The Range.

 


And in case you need a mood setter, here's a nice new drone compilation posted of the back nine second nine.

 

 

 

Video: Spieth Off The Pine Straw At 13: "What Would Arnie Do?"

One of the best moments in recent Augusta National 13th hole history happened Saturday at The Masters when microphones picked up Jordan Spieth's conversation with caddie Michael Greller.

The outstanding Amen Corner Live broadcast feed let us hear all of the conversation and announcer Grant Boone perfectly incorporated the moment into his call. Somewhat inexplicably, the dialogue and shot did not appear to make the CBS broadcast and therefore, highlights shows like Sportscenter and Live From.

Kevin Casey at Golfweek.com with some of the tweets and reaction to what is just a beautiful and saucey tribute!

Bill Fields at Masters.com on the round and Jordan's explanation of why he said it.

“I think Mike was taken aback,” Spieth said. “He was very much pressing for a lay-up there, and laying up was the smart shot. I couldn't see the green, given where the tree was located. The actual shot wasn’t blocked. It was just about committing to what you can see and what you actually know is there.”

Here it is:

2017 Masters Round Two Wrap-Up

There are multiple marquee pairings Saturday at Augusta National but it's hard to top these three in a row: Spieth-Mickelson, Rose-Scott, Rahm-Couples.

In the final pairing is Sergio Garcia, playing with Charley Hoffman who share the lead with Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler at -4. Steve DiMeglio's USA Today lede notes that Sergio is possibly the biggest story given his track record here and 2012 comments.

John Huggan on what a tortured history at Augusta it has been for the Spaniard.

Rickie Fowler opens the weekend as the betting favorite.

Just like that Jordan Spieth is only four back, notes Jeff Babineau of Golfweek.

Babineau also covers what was a joyless day for the players in relentlessly stressful conditions. The weekend should be much kinder.

Golf.com’s Alan Bastable followed Phil Mickelson’s round and reports.

The amazing Fred Couples is just three back and more incredibly, back at Augusta after sitting out in 2017. Beth Ann Nichols on his resurgence at 57.

Billy Walters won’t be wearing a green jacket in this lifetime, among other first world problems he’s experiencing today. A.J. Perez reports for USA Today.

ESPN.com’s Michael Collins shares his full chat with a player who is not named and they talk about what it was like out there the first two days.

Thomas Pieters may have had the most impressive hole of the day, eagling 13 from the pine straw.


And there was Branden Grace’s hole out, one of the few roars on another tough day for players to attack the course.

 

Stewart Hagestad Becomes First U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Invitee To Make Masters Cut

While the great Jay Sigel made a cut in 1988, never has a U.S. Mid-Amateur invitee made the Masters cut since the invitation began in 1989. Until 2017 when Stewart Hagestad, a 25-year-old from Newport Beach who did so comfortably with a 36-hole total of 147.

Brentley Romine at Golfweek.com on Hagestad's unforgettable finish, which was shown on the main ESPN broadcast (video below).

After clipping a pine tree with his drive at the par-4 18th, Hagestad cut a 3-iron from the second cut and landed it on the front part of the green. As the ball took a big bounce some 20 feet past the hole, the gallery seemed unfazed by the performance. But when the ball started coming back down the slope and toward the hole, the patrons’ cheers heightened, culminating in a loud cry when Hagestad’s ball just missed the cup.

Hagestad tees off Saturday at 12:40 pm ET with Brian Stourd, who he played the first two rounds with alonside 1987 Masters Champion, Larry Mize.

 

 

2017 Masters Round Two This And That

The leaderboard.

Golfweek.com's Live blog

All of the Masters.com live coverage is in operation. Amen Corner was stellar on day one, including lots of tracer and graphic elements not found on the main broadcast.

The temperature is cooler but the sun is out, with the forecasted winds and gusts very much a factor. Once again, the bombers may have their distance advantage muted by the direction of wind. Both the 1st and 15th are playing tough. Here's Bill Fields at Masters.com on the difficulty of number one.

Your round two locations

 

 

The traditional and online broadcast windows are listed here at Golfweek.com.

ShackHouse Masters Pop-Up Pod: First Round Wrap And Odyssey Putter Giveaway

It was a wild first day in Augusta National and Joe House and I did a quick breakdown of the Dustin Johnson WD, Charley Hoffman's great play, the extreme weather and hope that we can at least have an honest national discussion about hardwood floors.

The link is here on Soundcloud.

You can subscribe on iTunes.

Here is The Ringer's show page.

Today's special pop-up edition of The Ringer's ShackHouse has a very, very special giveaway from Odyssey: the O-Works One-Wide Putter complete with the Microhinge insert and the awesome commemorative Arnold Palmer headcover you’re seeing the Callaway Pros with this week at Augusta.
 
Get over to the Callaway Community and sign up, enter a comment in the giveaway thread with the year Arnie won his third green jacket.

A winner will be named Monday following the Masters!

Round One: Demanding Day At Augusta For All But One, But It Could Have Been Much Worse

As Beth Ann Nichols lays out at Golfweek.com, Charley Hoffman's seemingly effortless 65 on an all-effort day was just a matter of continuing his comfort level with Augusta National.

But I make the case for Golfweek.com that the real winners were people we don't know: the weather forecasters, course setup committee and maintenance team that presented the course in a way that could not spill over the top and into absurdity.

Adam Scott says things reached a "borderline" point, writes Ryan Lavner for GolfChannel.com.

While I noted how many people saw all of this coming and adjusted, Rex Hoggard writes at GolfChannel.com how everything else went very much not to script.

Chip Patterson and Kyle Porter at CBSSports.com with a nice breakdown of all the players and important infographics.

Speaking of players, the odds now have Rory McIlroy as the favorite.

GolfChannel.com has some fascinating numbers on the key players.

Jordan Spieth's back nine implosion is covered by Jeff Babineau, who took in all of Spieth's round.

Brentley Romine looks at the very solid start by U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Stewart Hagestad. I walked most of his back nine while paired with Larry Mize 74) and both held it together well in tough conditions. Hagestad has a chance to be the first Mid-Am winner to make the Masters cut.

Gerry Ahern at Golfweek.com with the Best Shot, Best Hole and Best Quote of the day.

G.C. Digital with a good wrap up of the best quotes from the day.

DJ WD: "He had a chance to do what Tiger Woods did here 20 years ago and, you know, Secretariat the field."

We'll gauge the energy from patrons tomorrow since the on-site  information blackout caused by the cell phone ban here forbids many from learning that Dustin Johnson withdrew from The Masters with a back injury, but I'm guessing reality will set in Friday.

Ian O'Connor at ESPN.com did a super job summing up an opportunity lost with Johnson's freak injury, with all of the details and all of the frustration we all share in not finding out if he could have dominated the field again this week.

Really, the only surprising development here is that Johnson didn't slip on a banana peel discarded by his brother and caddie, Austin, another easy target on tour. The Johnsons have long been cast in golf circles as the opposite of rocket scientists, whatever that is, and they've never seemed to take great offense to the labels.

But this is no laughing matter for the sport, for Augusta National, and for anyone who cares about great athletes trying to do great things.

2017 Masters Round One This And That

The leaderboard.

Golfweek.com's blog

All of the Masters.com live coverage is in operation. Amen Corner is, of course, the best.

After falling down stairs wearing socks on hardwood floors, pre-tournament favorite Dustin Johnson is now 8-1 even though he is said to be "trending in the right direction."

Your round one hole locations

Your traditional and online broadcast windows are listed here at Golfweek.com.

Golf Channel will have Morning Drive warming you up starting at 6 am ET (watch for me to brighten your morning at 6:20 am ET). And Live From coverage all day leading up to the telecast, followed by the wrap show at night with Brandel, Frank, Rich and David.

For DirecTV/AT&T subscribers there will be TWO 4K UHD channels in 2017, including Channel 105 featuring Amen Corner and Channel 106 featuring Hole 15 (Fire Thorn) and Hole 16 (Red Bud).

DirecTV/AT&T offers viewers “The Masters Experience,” including a four screen mosaic in HD, enhanced tournament coverage, an interactive leaderboard, scorecard and player bios. The four-screen mosaic will showcase ESPN and CBS Network coverage, two featured groups, Amen Corner and Holes 15/16.

If you have an Apple TV, do remember that you can enjoy Amen Corner Live, 15/16 coverage, Featured Groups and Masters On The Range (with lots of new bells and whistles). Just download the Masters app for Apple TV, and of course for our mobile or tablet devices to have coverage on the go.

Check out the Phil Mickelson Trackman data and tracer technology for Masters On The Range:

 

Final Preview: The 2017 Masters News, Notes, TV Times And Coverage Reminders

The Masters is here and now that we can stop talking about phone-in rules controversies, we can turn to the tournament where the forecast...could give us dry, high-wind golf that leads to...oh forget it.

It's The Masters! The Golf Gods already washed out the Par-3 Contest for the first time ever. The prevailing theory here: we can't enjoy this one without Arnold Palmer around. 

Dustin Johnson--suddenly limping in to this Masters with a back injury--enters as the most overwhelming favorite in a long time and his coach, Butch Harmon, says Johnson's confidence is similar to Tiger's best years, reports GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard.

Here are other comments from Harmon on DJ and other favorites like Spieth and McIlroy.

And here is the final Oddschecker.com listing for the Masters, though it will change as the tournament progresses.

For last minute fantasy players, David Dusek has some analytics tips to consider.

Chairman Billy Payne talked to the assembled press and here is my "best of" compilation from the session.

Patrons will be receiving a special badge to commemorate Arnold Palmer starting Thursday, reports Ward Clayton.

The Masters.com special Palmer page sending you to all of their coverage.

Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus talked to Jimmy Roberts about Arnold Palmer in a very special sitdown exclusive for Masters.com.

The tee times from Masters.com.

Brentley Romine with the ten best groupings to keep an eye on.

Bill Fields at Masters.com on what the wet, wind and wackiness might all mean for what figures to be a wild first two days.

Mark O'Meara talked to Tiger Woods at the Champions Dinner and he reports that Woods is having good and bad days with the pain in the same spot he was operated on. Twice. Ryan Lavner reports for GolfChannel.com.

“I feel for him,” O’Meara said after a practice round Wednesday. “He’s day to day. He said, ‘Some days I have good days; some days I have bad days.’ [The pain] is pretty much in the same area in his lower back that he’s had the surgeries on. But he’s such a competitor that he can’t come out and play half of what he did.

Lavner also reports on other former champion reactions to the Champions Dinner tributes.

Mike Tirico and I discussed the key remaining angles at Augusta National:

Jim Nantz is again hosting the Masters coverage on CBS and Rick Maese files this profile for the Washington Post.

And here are several key reminders on how to enjoy the content. Pay attention, I want to hear no complaining about the Masters telecast not coming on until 3 pm ET!

Your traditional and online broadcast windows are listed here at Golfweek.com.

Golf Channel will have Morning Drive warming you up starting at 6 am ET (watch for me to brighten your morning at 6:20 am ET). And Live From coverage all day leading up to the telecast, followed by the wrap show at night with Brandel, Frank, Rich and David.

If you have an Apple TV, do remember that you can enjoy Amen Corner Live, 15/16 coverage, Featured Groups and Masters On The Range (with lots of new bells and whistles). Just download the Masters app for Apple TV, and of course for our mobile or tablet devices to have coverage on the go.

For DirecTV/AT&T subscribers there will be TWO 4K UHD channels in 2017, including Channel 105 featuring Amen Corner and Channel 106 featuring Hole 15 (Fire Thorn) and Hole 16 (Red Bud).

DirecTV/AT&T offers viewers “The Masters Experience,” including a four screen mosaic in HD, enhanced tournament coverage, an interactive leaderboard, scorecard and player bios. The four-screen mosaic will showcase ESPN and CBS Network coverage, two featured groups, Amen Corner and Holes 15/16.

Reminder: Masters Honorary Starters Ceremony To Be Streamed Live

It's been a few years but the Masters.com folks will be streaming, Tweeting and Facebooking the Honorary Starters ceremony live at 8 am ET.

No excuses!

Chairman Billy Payne suggested he will be making more remarks than normal in light of this being the first without Arnold Palmer.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy has adjusted Jack Nicklaus's driver to help beat Gary Player, reports Kevin Casey.