CBS announcer Jim Nantz led off the network's Masters coverage Saturday by describing what Tiger Woods did the day before on the 15th hole as an "innocent" and "absent-minded" mistake.
CBS devoted the first 12 minutes of its broadcast from the Masters entirely to Woods, who was given a two-stroke penalty earlier in the day for a bad drop that led to his signing an incorrect scorecard after his second round.
Woods' shot on the 15th hole of the second round hit the flag stick and bounced back into the water. He took his penalty drop 2 yards behind where he hit the original shot, a rules violation.
Woods was tied for 17th when the third-round broadcast started at 3 p.m. EDT, five shots off the lead. His story dominated the early coverage, and CBS didn't mention another player until 3:12 p.m., when it showed the leaderboard for the first time.
"A day of high drama at Augusta National Golf Club before a single shot was struck." was how Nantz described the scene.
The broadcast started with a live shot of Woods at the sixth hole and being applauded by the gallery.
From there, the network displayed the ruling that cost Woods two strokes but allowed him to remain in the tournament. It broke down what his three options were after his shot on the 15th hole on Friday ended up in the water, then aired a lengthy interview by Nantz of Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters' competition committees.
Augusta National said it was Nantz who alerted Masters officials Friday that Woods' post-rounds comments were causing some doubts, leading to another review.
Woods had said after his round, "I went back to where I played it from, but went two yards further back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit. And that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back. I felt that was going to be the right decision to take off four (yards) right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly."
"It was an innocent mistake," Nantz said, referring to Woods' actions.
Once CBS got through the initial wave of Woods coverage, it was largely business-as-usual, with cameras trained on an array of players over roughly the next 35 minutes. Then CBS again revisited the Woods matter, with analyst Nick Faldo — a three-time Masters champion — saying the way Friday's events transpired ultimately saved Woods.
Augusta National reviewed the matter Friday even before Woods' second round was complete and found no breach of rules. But when Woods said after the round that he chose to play his drop slightly farther back from where he played his original shot, Augusta National decided to review the matter once again.
"If this had all happened later at night, if somebody had called in late at night and then had gone back and reviewed everything, then in fact Tiger would be disqualified," Faldo said. "He would have signed for the wrong score. In a way, that helped him. They reviewed the situation, they decided from what they saw there was no infringement, but it was only after Tiger then said, 'Hey, I intentionally came back a couple of yards.'"
Faldo said he was surprised Woods did not know the rule, but added that he gave the world's No. 1 player "the benefit of doubt."
Earlier in the day, the Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee said:
"The integrity of this sport is bigger than the desire to see Tiger Woods play golf today," Chamblee said. "I want to see Tiger Woods play golf. I have never seen anybody play golf like him. I want to see him make a run at Jack Nicklaus' majors record. I want to see that. But I don't want to see it this week; I don't want to see it under these circumstances. The right thing to do here, for Tiger and for the game, is for Tiger to disqualify himself."
Faldo agreed with Chamblee and didn't back down during the CBS broadcast.
"There was absolutely no intention to try to drop that as close to the divot, absolutely none at all," Faldo said. "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."
Later in the telecast, Faldo's tone seemed more conciliatory.
Faldo reiterated that in his era, he thought most players — when presented with a situation like the one Woods was in — would either be disqualified or withdraw. But he stopped short of calling again for that to happen.
"We're in a new era now under new rules and even if they bring some controversy, Tiger is playing rightly under the new rules," Faldo said. "And myself and some of my old pros, we have to accept that now."