By SHARON GINN
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 22, 2001
Except for those who have been to Augusta National, the first nine holes of the fabled golf course remain a mystery to even the most die-hard fans.
At next year's Masters, that at last is going to change.
In a joint statement Thursday afternoon, Masters and CBS officials announced the network will televise all 18 holes of the tournament's final round.
In a news release, the only for-the-record comment on the matter, Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson and CBS president Sean McManus proclaimed themselves "pleased." But no one will be more pleased than fans, who have been clamoring for years to see more of Augusta National.
Live tournament coverage had been limited to 10 1/2 hours over four days: 2 1/2 hours Thursday and Friday on USA, and 2 1/2 hours hours Saturday and 3 hours Sunday on CBS.
Together, NBC and ESPN planned nearly three times that much coverage for last weekend's U.S. Open, where fans could watch live golf for up to seven hours each day.
The Masters coverage will remain the same over the first two days. Coverage on Saturday, April 13, will be extended a half-hour, from 3:30-6:30 p.m., and Sunday's coverage will begin at 2:30 and end around 7, enough time to show the leaders playing the complete final round.
The change, hinted at in the days leading up to this year's event, was prompted by the jump in ratings and popularity. This year's final round, in which Tiger Woods won his fourth straight major, was watched by an estimated 40.1-million people, the second-largest audience in CBS' 46 years of Masters coverage. (Woods' 1997 victory ranks No. 1.)