ESPN can not begin its full-boat, live presentation of The Masters earlier than its planned 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m. window on Thursday and Friday, so it will have to cover the majority of Tiger Woods's first two rounds at the Grand Slam event via hourly cut-ins throughout the day and recaps once it goes on the air.
That is according to ESPN execs on a conference call Tuesday about the sports programmer's coverage of the event, which starts Wednesday April 7 with the par three tournament that proceeds the actual championship.
ESPN is covering the first two rounds before handing it off to CBS, though it will produce 3D coverage of all four rounds that is being distributed by Comcast. But ESPN will continue to cover it as a news story throughout the weekend.
Asked on a conference call whether ESPN had sought to expand its live coverage given the interest in Woods, who is returning to the circuit for the first time since his infidelties cost him sponsors and perhaps his marriage, executive vice president of programming and acquisitions John Wildhack said he was comfortable with the aforementioned window, and pointed to the live cut-ins, which he said could be as long as five- to seven minutes per segment.
He also noted that ESPN would go live to the opening tee shot for Tiger on Thursday afternoon.
"Every meaningful shot he hits will be shown in some capacity," said Wildhack.
Don't look for ESPN commentators to spend a lot of time recapping Woods's recent troubles in any detail.
Host Mike Tirico said that unless they have been living under a rock, viewers know what has happened and been talked about for months in every medium, adding that there would be plenty to talk about in what was going on in the golf tournament.
Former major champion Curtis Strange did add that the issue of Woods's four-month layoff from the links circuit would come up as it related to the world's top golfer's play, saying it could not help but affect it.
Tiger's return to pro golf has become the back, side, and front story of the tournament, but Tirico says that may actually take the pressure off the other players, since they have all essentially been under the radar.
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