AUGUSTA, Ga. – The most memorable moment of the first three rounds of the 2019 Masters occurred when an agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation slipped and nearly took out Tiger Woods while running to control a crowd of fans.
The sliding agent’s right knee clipped Tiger’s right heel as Tiger watched his second shot on the 14th hole sail to the green.
The contact caused Tiger to hop and limp for a stretch, although the effects did not linger. Tiger made the ensuing birdie putt and later declared, “Accidents happen. Move on. I’ve had galleries run over me before. You play in front of a lot of people and things happen.”
The incident clearly had little impact on the actual tournament, however, the randomness and uniqueness of it all made it extremely newsworthy. Social media exploded with highlights of the collision. It was hailed as a sign of Tiger’s resilience and mental focus. Around the world golf fans discussed how much worse it could have been and laughed off the near miss.
If nothing else, this was something no one had ever really seen before.
And here’s where you wouldn’t see it again: during CBS’ Saturday broadcast of the Masters.
CBS never replayed the clip during its nearly five-hour live broadcast of Saturday’s third round. That included even when Woods was back on the 14th hole. Time will tell if it returns on Sunday.
The network had no comment when asked why, but one explanation might be that it was focused on the current round. Of course, this is a course where history is everything and replays of past shots (great and bad) from different players and different years are part of the broadcast.
How many times has Jack Nicklaus’ putt on 17, Tiger’s on 16 or anything else gets re-shown?
But not this, the day after?
The most likely scenario is that CBS was doing what it could to not draw extra attention to an incident that Augusta National is unlikely to find all that amusing or worth reliving. If so, it would continue a long-standing tradition of the Masters dictating what it wants its broadcast partner to show and how it wants things described.
Fans are called patrons. The crowd is a gallery. And so on.
Twenty-five years ago, Gary McCord broadcast his last Masters after referring to the greens as “bikini waxed” and using the term “body bags” in reference to a ball going to the water. In 1966, announcer Jack Whitaker called the gallery around the 18th green “a mob” and didn’t appear on the broadcast again for a few years.
Forty years ago, Augusta National even handed out rules to CBS about the broadcast, including never referring to the Masters’ prize money, never saying the event was sold out of tickets and never estimating the size of the gallery. It also included this dictum: “Instead of identifying Lee Elder as the first black man to play in the Masters, say he is the first person of his race to play in the tournament.”
The Masters’ relationship with television has always been unusual. For years the club only allowed certain holes to be broadcast, starting with just four and slowly expanding to the back nine. As recently as 1981, the club only allowed 4.5 hours of the tournament to be shown.
Augusta National goes to extraordinary lengths and takes great pride in running the finest golf tournament in the world. Virtually no expense is spared in treating fans, players, families and media to the finest amenities and smoothest operations.
Even though a police officer slipping on wet grass was an unfortunate, and essentially unavoidable, accident, as Tiger said, this is the Masters.
Repeated visuals of the security operation nearly wiping out the most famous player on earth is not the kind of thing Augusta National is going to consider a positive or even something to laugh off later.
Is that why CBS didn’t show it again after Friday’s broadcast?
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