AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy was the first to try a new tradition at Augusta National on Thursday as he popped in an earpiece and wore a microphone and talked to ESPN while completing the ninth hole during the opening round of the Masters.
Max Homa also did an interview with the sports network on the 14th hole.
Augusta National reached out to McIlroy last week inquiring if he would take part in the interview.
“It’s nice to provide the audience at home with a little more insight into what’s going on out here,” he said following an even-par 72. “I think Augusta has a great balance of blending that history and that tradition, but also making sure that we’re keeping up with the times.”
Masters 2023 leaderboard: Get the latest news from Augusta
As he walked to the green, McIlroy explained his second shot after it came up just short of the pin and spun back 40 feet from the cup.
“I just eased off on it a little bit, I think, just in the back of my mind,” McIlroy said on the telecast. “Obviously you don’t want to go long on this pin, so I just eased off and probably pitched it five or six yards shorter than I wanted to.”
McIlroy talked Trevor Immelman through an upcoming putt, the contours of the green and how the ball should go slightly left to right, before he walked onto the green. He two-putted for par.
Homa could be heard contemplating his second and third shots while broadcasters remained silent.
A live stroll and conversation up No. 14 with Max Homa. #themasters pic.twitter.com/U7z0uso62E
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 6, 2023
The interviews give viewers an inside perspective on the player’s round, much like when NASCAR radios a driver mid-race or an MLB player is mic’d up on the field.
Homa was the first to be interviewed mid-round for CBS in January. During the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a tournament he eventually won, Homa was interviewed on the 13th hole.
The moment was well received by viewers, and networks continued interviewing a player for a hole during tournaments leading up to the Masters.
McIlroy first put in an earpiece two weeks ago during his quarterfinal match against Xander Schauffele at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“I thought it would be a cool thing to do, and I did it in Austin and didn’t feel like it took me out of my rhythm in any way or made me think about things too much,” McIlroy said. “It definitely feels a little less intrusive with an earpiece rather than someone up right next to you with a microphone.”
Homa, the fun-loving Californian, was willing to do anything the club asked, he said following a 1-under 71. CBS inquired Wednesday if he would be involved in the walk-and-talk.
Homa said it was like being on a phone call for 10 minutes and played down any notion of it becoming a distraction. He added that if it were 5 percent distracting, it’s worth it for the 95 percent of positives it does for the game.
“I’m just a fan of it and I think it’s good for golf, it’s good for the fans and I think it makes coverage more interesting,” Homa said. “If you’re at the Masters and they just say that it’s OK to do, I feel like you should do it. That term ‘grow the game’ gets thrown around a lot, and at times we don’t know what that means. But it does feel like that’s a good way to gain some perspective for the fans to enjoy golf a little bit easier.”
McIlroy lauded Homa’s interview at Torrey Pines and added that Keith Mitchell did well during his moment the following week at Pebble Beach.
Asked if there was a player he’d enjoy seeing do a walk-and-talk, his answer was simple: “Tiger, there’s only one answer there.”
What are the chances?
“Zero,” McIlroy said with a laugh.
Gannett may earn revenue from sports betting operators for audience referrals to betting services. Sports betting operators have no influence over nor are any such revenues in any way dependent on or linked to the newsrooms or news coverage. Terms apply, see operator site for Terms and Conditions. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call the National Council on Problem Gambling 24/7 at 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ, OH), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN). Must be 21 or older to gamble. Sports betting and gambling are not legal in all locations. Be sure to comply with laws applicable where you reside.