I arrived on Merseyside yesterday, having braved the Good Friday traffic as I endeavoured to get to the Wirral to attend my family’s Easter celebrations and be re-united with my father just in time for what used to be our traditional viewing of the Masters. After watching the opening day with only the company of my notepad and a couple of bottles of beer I was very much looking forward to the final three days.
My dad is one of Peter Alliss’ biggest fans and he listened intently throughout the second day’s coverage, hoping to hear some more classic quotes to go with a couple of gems from Thursday’s opening round.
Despite seeming to be warming up for a vintage performance during Thursday’s coverage, Alliss was relatively low key on day two. It was almost as if he and his co-commentators were trying to get through the day professionally and with a minimum of fuss and fanfare – mirroring the players themselves, who for the second successive day endured some of the most difficult conditions seen at Augusta for many a year.
Indeed, I am struggling to recall a day at the Masters that seemed to go by so slowly. That is not an indictment against the players or the tournament itself – rather like an over-indulged child it is permitted to behave exactly how it wants to without criticism, in my opinion anyway – but until Geoff Ogilvy made a birdie on the 17th hole as the clocks pushed midnight I counted almost 90 minutes without a ‘live’ birdie. This, coupled with fatigue from my long drive, had me wondering for a few moments whether I was watching the US Open instead.
There were a few high points on offer to the viewer though. At the very beginning we were shown footage of Tiger Woods violently aborting his downswing on the 13th tee after he was distracted by a bird. We were informed by the BBC team that he wouldn’t be penalised with a penalty stroke due to his conscious effort to avoid the ball, despite the fact that the clubhead had advanced past it. Gary Lineker presented us with the exact wording of the ruling, with a beaming Alliss heaping praise on the R&A’s succinct phrasing and claiming it worthy of Latin text. Tiger’s round was extraordinary – the most entertaining 74 I have ever seen. Any other player would surely have struggled to break 80.
What is getting to be a customary error from Lineker followed soon after, with him saying that “…Stenson will join his fellow leaders if he holes this putt on the 9th.” He doesn’t seem to make as many of these unforced errors when presenting the football – perhaps the grinding tension of the occasion was getting to him too.
In between the pars and bogeys the BBC kept the interest alive for those less dedicated fans by delving into the archives to show us flashes of Masters history and trivia. A look into the Crow’s Nest was superb, as was the history of Amen Corner and the footage of Seve Ballesteros winning in 1980. We have been promised more ‘Masters Moments’ over the final two rounds. One thing the BBC always does well is nostalgia.
Much of the second day’s coverage was dominated by two things – the projected cut, which eventually stood at +8, and a celebration of the legendary Gary Player’s Masters career. The three-time former champion was the first overseas player to win the title and was equalling Arnold Palmer’s record by appearing in his 50th tournament. The 71 year-old South African is renowned as being one of the first men to advocate the importance of gym work and a good diet, and his love of fitness and his dedication was not lost on Alliss.
On the 18th, as Player bowed out to warm applause after missing the cut, he ambled over to one of his playing partners, Vaughn Taylor, and appeared to offer him some advice. Alliss’ take on how the conversation was going was probably the highlight of the second day.
“Do your press-ups, eat plenty of nuts and keep yourself regular – you won’t go far wrong,” he said.
A quick mention must go the Augusta National Golf Club itself. Notoriously and properly protective of the event and its traditions, this year the club has permitted TV crews to film the course from different angles and camera positions. It has been hailed as the first major change to the TV coverage for almost two decades and I am sure most of you will agree that it has been one of the best features of the coverage so far. After 20 years of viewing it has enabled me to fall in love with the course and its setting all over again. It also enables the viewer to get more of a feel for the enormous but hitherto deceptive undulations that are a real feature of the course.
The weekend is now upon us and with it should come the usual fireworks. The third round is known as ‘moving day’, with the players jostling for position ahead of Sunday’s tense final round. After a trying couple of days I fancy that the organisers may make a few concessions to the beleaguered players in terms of pin placements. This will set us up nicely for a birdie filled weekend of high drama on the BBC, with Bill Odie nowhere to be seen. Here’s hoping anyway….