Biggest missing question
When CBS took the air at 3 p.m on Saturday, it immediately addressed the Tiger Woods controversy.
A quick recap: on Friday, Woods hit a shot that struck the flag stick and ricocheted into the water. He chose to take a drop from where he had just taken his previous shot. But instead of dropping the ball as near to where his last shot was played (as the rules state), Woods dropped about 2 yards behind that shot. Therefore, when his round was over, he signed an incorrect scorecard. Instead of being disqualified, Woods was given a two-stroke penalty.
CBS dedicated the first 12 minutes of its Saturday coverage exclusively to the controversy. Thank goodness host Jim Nantz was there to tell everyone that it wasn't Woods' fault. Yes, that last sentence is dripping with sarcasm. Nantz actually used the words "innocent'' and "absent-minded'' to describe Woods' actions.
Nantz did an okay job interviewing Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committees and a Tampa resident. He asked if Woods was getting special treatment and why Woods wasn't disqualified for his actions. At one point, Ridley said Woods' drop was reviewed and it was determined that Woods had not done anything wrong. It wasn't until Woods, in an interview after Friday's round, admitted that he intentionally dropped the ball 2 yards away from his original shot. That is what alerted Masters officials that Woods had done something. (It should be noted that there are reports that Nantz is the one who reported Woods postround comments to Masters officials, leading to a further review of the matter.)
This is when Nantz should have jumped Ridley and said: "Wait. You're telling me when you reviewed the tape, you determined that Woods had done nothing wrong? Are you telling me that you couldn't tell that the drop was nowhere near the original shot?''
But Nantz never followed up with that tough question. Interestingly, CBS lead analyst Nick Faldo said later: "There was absolutely no intention to try to drop that as close to the divot, absolutely none at all. So, in black and white, and that is the greatest thing about our game, our rules are very much black and white. You know, that's a breach of the rules. Simple as that."
Ultimately, I don't think Woods should have been disqualified. A two-stroke penalty seemed about right and there is a rule that allowed for the Masters to avoid disqualifying Woods. But Ridley's explanations during the Nantz interview for determining that penalty were shady and incomplete. Nantz needed to press him a little more. Still, when it comes to the Masters and controversies such as these, maybe it would be best if CBS put more of a bulldog reporter-type instead of a nice-guy host who seems as much a part of Augusta National as he does the network that covers it.
Second biggest missing question
How can you do an interview with Tiger Woods immediately after his Sunday round at the Masters, talk about how he played, how close he came to winning and how he felt about his game and not ask how the Saturday controversy affected his play for the rest of the tournament? The answer to that question lies with CBS's Bill Macatee, who did not ask Woods about the controversy during the lone postmatch interview CBS had with Woods on Sunday.
The worst part of the Tiger Woods controversy is that Augusta National officials admitted that they discovered Woods had done something wrong because of Woods' postround comments. If I'm Woods, or any golfer, I'm not sure I'd ever say anything after a round for fear of getting in trouble.
I always find it so phony when those snobs at Augusta National use such words as "integrity'' and "character'' to talk about how wonderful its tournament is, and how special its golf club is. The Masters folks did a lot of that on Saturday talking about the Tiger Woods controversy.
Don't try to sell me on how integrity and class and character mean to so much when you've had the history of bigotry that your club has had.
Oh, by the way, NBC's Bob Costas blasted CBS and even seemed to take a shot at fellow sports host Jim Nantz for never bringing up Augusta's history during a radio interview with Dan Patrick.
"What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, even during a rain delay, even when there was time to do so, is Augusta's history of racism and sexism.'' Costas said last week. "Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds — forget about taking a side — never acknowledging it. So not only will I never work the Masters because I'm not at CBS, but I'd have to say something and then I would be ejected.''
More from Costas: "I think someone should have had the guts to do it along the way. Broadcaster, executive, somebody should have said to someone at Augusta: 'Look this is an issue. And this is not Nightline or Meet The Press, we understand that. But this is an issue. And it's an elephant in the room. And we're going to address it as concisely as we can but we're going to address it so our heads are not in the collective sand trap.' ''
Who says you have to be a former player to offer good analysis on a broadcast? Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci never played in the majors, but he did an outstanding job working as the analyst for the Rays-Red Sox game on Saturday's Fox Game of the Week. In fact, it took me a couple of innings before I even discovered it was a non-player and that was only because his name was mentioned.
Best duel coverage
Saturday mornings usually are not big for breaking news stories in sports. You figure ESPN wouldn't be ready for a big story to break, let alone two. Yet the network was faced with two major stories involving two of the most famous athletes on the planet at the same time.
First, Lakers star Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon Friday night, ending his season and, possibly, his career. Then came word that Tiger Woods was facing a possible disqualification from the Masters because of an illegal drop and wrong scorecard during Friday's second round.
ESPN handled both stories well, bringing in its experts to add insightful commentary.
The Bryant story was pretty straightforward. He was injured, his season was over. There wasn't a whole lot to do beside show replays and then discuss what it meant in the short term to the Lakers and the long run to Bryant. Stephen A. Smith did a splendid job providing speculation on both.
The Woods story was a bit more intriguing because it was still developing. Anchor Scott Van Pelt did an excellent job lobbing up provocative questions and theories to analysts Andy North and Curtis Strange. While North and Strange were not very edgy (both agreed with the decision that Woods should only be given a two-stroke penalty), you cannot ask them to take a stance they do not believe.
All in all, a solid job by ESPN on what was an unusually busy Saturday morning.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Why are we still asking golfers to keep (and then sign) their own scorecards? Golfers keeping scorecards is like asking NBA players to keep track of the score during a game. It's silly.
2. Okay, so far I'm wrong on the prediction that B.J. Upton was going to have a monster season in Atlanta. He has twice as many strikeouts (14) as hits (seven).
3. But I might be right on this one: I picked the Caps' Alex Ovechkin to win the NHL MVP and, right now, I think he deserves the award.
tom jones' two cents
Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.