How will broadcasters address – or ignore – the elephant in the room that is the ongoing civil war in professional golf with 18 members of LIV Golf competing at the 87th Masters next week?
It was an obvious question and one that CBS Sports’s Chairman Sean McManus knew he was going to be asked during the network’s annual pre-Masters conference call – it’ll be the 68th consecutive year for CBS broadcasting the Masters! – with sports writers. And McManus, who has been reticent in discussing LIV, gave a good answer.
“We’re not going to cover up or hide anything,” he said. “As I’ve said often, our job is to cover the golf tournament. We’re not going to show any different treatment for the golfers who have played on the LIV Tour than the other golfer. If there is a pertinent point or something that we feel we should bring up in our coverage Saturday or Sunday or on our other coverage throughout the week, we’re not going to put our heads in the sand.”
It was an interesting choice of expressions because when asked on previous calls with journalists, he has been quick to shut down any discussion of the topic. In a January call before the CBS team kicked off its season at the Farmers Insurance Open, I asked CBS lead producer Sellers Shy if there were any guidelines or rules for his broadcast team pertaining to LIV Golf and what they can or cannot say? Before Shy could answer, McManus cut him off. “I don’t want to get into discussing any other golf programming. I’d like to keep it to CBS.”
When pressed to get a better sense of what viewers can expect, McManus said only, “he can expect coverage of the CBS golf event, basically, and I hope it’s the best in the industry.”
This time, McManus had more to say, and make no mistake, CBS won’t be leaning into the PGA Tour-Liv controversy. “Having said that, unless it really affects the story that’s taking place on the golf course, we’re not going to go out of our way to cover it. I’m not sure there is anything that we could add to this story as it already exists. It’s a factor and we’ll cover it as suitable.”
When Shy was asked if there is a part of him that roots for a LIV player to be in contention going into Sunday because of the interest it would draw to the telecast, he said, “We’re not cheerleaders here. We just want to cover the golf tournament. So, whoever is on that leaderboard, we’re covering them because they are invited to the Masters.”
When the topic resurfaced later during the call in a question posed to Trevor Immelman, CBS’s lead analyst said, “The Masters Tournament and Augusta National is bigger than any player that has come before, any player that is around now and any player that will come in the years ahead. That’s what we’re focused on is giving that tournament justice and crowning a great champion and putting a Green Jacket on a great champion on Sunday afternoon.”
On Tuesday, there are media calls scheduled with ESPN, who will have live coverage of the Par 3 Contest as well as the first and second round tournament coverage, and Golf Channel, who will show plenty of auxiliary programming, so check back to see what those networks have to say.