As of right now, the most anticipated moment in sports history will not be seen on live television. Woods will make his official return to golf on Thursday, April 8, 2010, at The Masters. Though his tee time for the first round of the tournament has not yet been announced, the latest he will start will be at least two hours before ESPN’s coverage of Round 1 commences at 4pm ET.
(As it stands, live TV coverage of Tiger comeback won’t include first holes)
Last year, Woods teed off for the first round at 1:52p ET in the second-to-last threesome. The final group went off at 2:03p ET:
When I inquired to ESPN if the network was lobbying Masters officials to allow live coverage of all of Woods’ first two rounds, I was provided this well-crafted piece of diplomacy: “We have the telecast windows and have presented SportsCenter cut-ins in past and plan to this year.”
As an aside, The Masters, for no good reason in particular, is the only major tournament that still doesn’t allow its network broadcast partner to air the entire first two rounds. (Masters President Billy Payne apparently consulted with the ghosts of Walter O’Malley and Bill Wirtz on the policy.)
Don’t blame ESPN if millions around the world aren’t allowed to see Tiger’s comeback live. That said, if ESPN isn’t pushing The Masters to allow the extra coverage, it absolutely should be. If nothing else to produce an absurd claim from Augusta National on why it prevented the change.
Though my gut tells me that ESPN has broached the subject already and will do all in its power to capture potentially the biggest live shot in sports television history. Though there still is a possible, accessible outlet for live video coverage of Woods not seen on broadcast television.
The MASTERS provides live, online coverage of holes 11-13 and 15-16 on its official website.
That doesn’t account for the first holes of Woods’ round, but there is a wildcard feature that possibly could. The Masters online coverage includes something called the “Featured Group”, though I’ve confirmed that last year’s video for that area of the site was not streamed live.
So for now, there’s no indication that anyone beyond the “patrons” will witness Woods’ first drive since Thanksgiving night. Something that I’m sure suits Woods just fine.