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Reviewing The Stories And TV Coverage at The 2023 Masters

By: | Mon 10 Apr 2023

WELL what a Masters that was. It had everything - and then some!

Once again the weather played its part and I have to ask the question: this happens so often that it might just be time to think about moving it. I know that sounds like heresy but year after year we see players being taken off the course. It is a fact that April in Augusta is a time of year when we see torrential rain and thunderstorms.

And this year the organisers were incredibly lucky that nobody died when three Georgian pines collapsed during the second round. It was nothing short of a miracle that nobody was hurt.

We may also have seen the end of an era. There can be no denying the courage of Tiger Woods in somehow finding a way to make the cut for a record 23rd consecutive time. The man has hardly played any competitive golf in the past years but his body has finally failed him.

From his opening tee shot it was clear that the 15-time major champion was struggling to walk - and there is no more unforgiving golf course than Augusta National if you are not 100% fit. Woods said before the tournament began that he didn’t know how many more Masters he had in him. He may have answered that question this year.

Once again we saw Rory McIlroy’s hopes of completing the career grand slam vanish in a puff of smoke. And, quite bizarrely, we saw him talking to CBS TV during his opening round. How peculiar was that? He has tried all sorts of ways of beating his Augusta jinx but, surely, engaging with a TV commentary team while in the heat of battle is not, and never will be, the way to do it.

You have to ask yourself if McIlroy will ever win this tournament. He is about to turn 34 and it is nine years since his most recent major success. So many pundits fancied his chances of winning this year, but he simply wasn’t at the races.

Having arrived at the course and telling us that he was driving the ball better than ever, he simply missed too many fairways. And on day one he certainly couldn’t blame conditions - three players finished the day tied on 65.

This was also the first Masters since the arrival on the scene of LIV Golf. There was plenty of conversation about the breakaway tour during the early part of the tournament but I was also struck by how often the likes of Ewen Murray and Butch Harmon referred to “the other tour” and “their tour” - anything, it seemed, rather than calling it LIV Golf.

We discovered that the LIV golfers can still play, although Brooks Koepka ran out of steam after 54 holes - last week he won a 54-hole LIV event. But there was 52-year-old Phil Mickelson finishing joint second with Koepka - a huge surprise given that he has played like yesterday’s man for the past 12 months. And Patrick Reed also gave a good account of himself. Greg Norman had promised us a massive LIV celebration on the 18th green if one of his players claimed the Green Jacket. Thankfully, we were spared that.

Viktor Hovland probably also learnt that his all-out attacking style will need to change if he is ever to win The Masters. We saw plenty of excitement on the final day - unfortunately, most of it came from golfers who were too far back to mount a serious challenge.

The week was also a coming of age for Laura Davies, who is turning out to be a brilliant commentator - and somebody with a wicked sense of humour to boot. Nick Faldo provided the sort of insight that can only come from somebody who has won this tournament three times. And there is no better analyst in the game than Paul McGinley, who applies the same eye for detail to his commentary as he did his tactics when leading Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014.

I wish that I could say the same for Harmon. He may well be one of the world’s most highly-respected teachers but does he really need to give nicknames to every player. Justin Rose becomes “Rosey”. And I am sorry but “Golf your ball” is hardly fitting commentary for a well-played shot.

The crowds at Augusta are probably the best-behaved in the game. They know that if they holler “get in the hole” or “you’re the man”, they are likely to be asked to leave the property.

They also know that foul language will not be tolerated. It is a shame that some of the players seem to be incapable of living to the same standards. Hearing Rahm follow a misplaced driver with a loud “F*** it!” Is not the example he should be showing his legions of young followers. If the organisers refuse to tolerate foul language from the patrons, why should they allow the world’s best golfers to get away with it? Rahm is by no means the only man who favours colourful language - Justin Thomas is another repeat offender.

And what about Sam Bennett? It has to be said that today’s amateurs are actually professional in everything but name. Interviewed after each of the opening two rounds his polo shirt was covered in sponsors’ logos. But what a prospect he is.

He was 49th in the US Open at Brookline last year. But at Augusta he didn’t drop his first shot until the 22nd hole - and that was his only dropped stroke in 36 holes. And he told Sky that he loved playing in front of big crowds and then added, with the confidence of youth: “I think that I can go ahead and win.” He didn’t, of course, but we are going to be hearing an awful lot more about the US Amateur champion, who will be turning professional soon.

You can also be fairly sure that Jon Rahm will be adding to his major tally fairly soon.

We also learnt that slow play remains a curse - it took Rahm and Koepka the best part of five hours to complete the final round - playing in a twoball.

Yes, this was another memorable week at Augusta - the golf season has begun!

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Tags: the masters Masters 2023 Masters

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