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Holy Ground: For Golf Fans, It's Augusta National and the Masters
April 6, 2012  | By Gerald Jordan
 
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This is holy week. Notice the lower case spelling: that's because it's holy week for golf. No offense intended to billions of the Christian faithful around the globe (this really is Holy Week), but executives at ESPN and CBS are praying that millions flock to their TV sets over the next three days to witness golf's greatest show, The Masters...

Yup. That's the one that lowers Jim Nantz's hushed tones into the deepest reverberation in the sort of reverence usually reserved for somber matters of state. It is "a tradition unlike any other."

It's a time when golf fans, and those who pretend to be fans, peer deeply into HD flat screens and drool at the beauty of Augusta National.

Live coverage of the first men's major tournament of the season got underway Thursday on ESPN and will continue from 3-7:30 p.m. ET Friday. Then CBS picks up coverage Saturday from 3:30-7 p.m. ET and from 2-7 p.m. ET Sunday.

For the truly techie out there in TVLand, viewers can duck errant shots or almost swallow putts by catching the action in three dimensions, on ESPN 3D from 3:30-7:30 ET Friday and 4-7 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

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This is the golf tournament that, thanks in large measure to CBS promoting it extensively during the NCAA men's basketball tournament, will again bring out the "amateur viewers" in substantial numbers. Think Masters; think Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

And it's easy to understand. They've won green jackets six of the last 11 times.

Even though Woods hasn't won the Masters since 2005, his spectacular run from 1997, 2001 and 2002 still is so fresh in the minds of the church ladies and others who cheer for him, they all think this could be the year, again.

After interviewing Woods for 60 Minutes, Ed Bradley said that his elderly aunt seated herself in front of her television every Sunday that Tiger Woods was in contention, and he was certain that she knew nothing about golf.

Masters Week brings with it an audience of those who know very little about golf, but will draw near for the breathtaking views of Augusta National (even though, this year, the azaleas are past their peak because of the unusually warm winter, and spring storms have made some opening-day scenes look fairly cloudy).

The golferati will incline their ear to catch the crisp sound of clubs compressing golf balls and making them do things that weekend hackers only dream of. And (CBS execs hope) all will watch to see who slips on the green jacket Sunday evening.

Tiger Woods will play in his 18th Masters. As he said in a press conference this week, experience counts.

"I think it's understanding how to play this golf course... This is my 18th year, so I've spent just about half my life playing this tournament," Woods, 36, said in a recorded interview. He shot even par in his opening round Thursday.

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Yes, the world's No. 1 ranked player will be in the Masters. Oh, it's not Tiger Woods; he lost that distinction a while ago. It's Luke Donald.

Go ahead, casual fans: "Luke who?"

Say what you will, the Briton has game -- although his plus-3 finish Thursday was a bit of a letdown.

Tiger is No. 7 in the world; Phil is No. 14. But this is the Masters. Remember that course and tour experience count heavily.

If Tiger's recent victory at Bay Hill is a harbinger, and Mickelson's crushing him at Pebble Beach earlier this year is equally clairvoyant, the two might very well go to the wire Sunday.

And that would mean a very happy Easter for CBS.

 
 
 
 
 
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