Eyes tend to glaze over when watching anything for five hours or more, even history, yet the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ victory in the Masters on Sunday warranted consideration for how CBS and Golf Channel might respond.
Both responded memorably. CBS’ anchor Jim Nantz, after Woods’ final putt fell, called it “the return to glory,” then took a page from Vin Scully’s playbook. He let the scene unfold without comment, a rarity in sports television addicted to excessive chatter.
Finally, and perfectly, when Woods was done hugging son Charlie, daughter Sam and mother Kultida, Nantz said, “I never thought we could see anything that would rival the hug with his father. We just did.”
Even the green jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin was worthwhile. Augusta National chairmen tend to be understated, but Fred Ridley acknowledged Woods’ victory for what it was,“one of the most amazing weeks in our history,” he said.
During the telecast, when Woods birdied the 16th hole to take a two-stroke lead, the venerable Verne Lundquist responded as one might expect, with a trademark phrase: “I’m compelled to say, oh my goodness.”
When Woods was walking up the 18th fairway, Nantz offered context to what viewers were witnessing. “This is going to be one of the great comebacks, the completion of one of the great comebacks in any sport all time.”
Nantz began his Masters broadcast career in 1986, when Jack Nicklaus, at 46, won it for the 16th time. Brandel Chamblee referenced it on Golf Channel’s post-tournament show.
“[CBS analyst] Ken Venturi, famously after picking up Jim Nantz off his perch at the 16th green in 1986, said, ‘you’ll live your whole lifetime and you’ll never see a better Masters than this,’” Chamblee said. “And Jim Nantz was on the call, and if the late Ken Venturi were alive today, he might amend that and say this tops them all.
“[Tiger] continues to stretch the limits of what one imagines is possible. You can read, re-read, talk, write about Tiger all your life and never get beyond the fact that he’s just an enigma. How can so many gifts, so absolute, belong to one man?”
David Duval called it “one of those days that 20 years down the road you’re going to be asked, where were you when? That’s what this is.
“It’s utterly remarkable, what he’s gone through the last 18 months — the time, the patience, the practice, the dedication, the not giving up, believing in what you’re doing, owning everything that’s transpired in the last decade, 15 years.”
Frank Nobilo cited an old boxing saying. “It’s not how many times you get knocked down,” he said, “it’s how many times you get up. He was done. HIs career was done. He could barely walk. That alone was incredible. We will never be able to put what’s happened into context I don’t think for quite a while.”
Golf Channel even was able to reach by phone Jack Nicklaus, who had been bone fishing in the Bahamas. He got to shore in time to see Tiger win his 15th Major, re-igniting his quest to equal or surpass Nicklaus’ 18 Majors.
“The next two majors are at Bethpage, where he’s won, and Pebble Beach, where he’s won,” Nicklaus said. “He’s got me shaking in my boots, guys.”
Probably not. But if Nicklaus was guilty of a bit of it, Woods’ victory otherwise was immune to hyperebole.