Calls by Nantz, Tirico will be part of history. Now if they can only remember what they said.
It’s no surprise that Jim Nantz and Mike Tirico used different styles to call the end of the historic Masters tournament.
After all, Nantz was on CBS and let the televised pictures tell the story. Tirico was on Westwood One radio, and had to describe the scene for his listeners.
What is most surprising about their two calls, though, is how similar they were. Both announcers, two of the best in the business in my opinion, used the same general approach to describe one the most historic golf events they’ve ever covered.
That is, they both eschewed scripts or stats and wound up getting lost in the moment.
I found it fascinating last week when both announcers — in separate interviews with me days after the tournament — admitted that they could not remember exactly what they said. But both were articulate about the style they used to call a final putt that will be replayed in highlight reels for decades.
“I have a hard time going through it with great detail because nothing was scripted out, and I’m not exactly sure of what I said in that entire scene at the 18th,” Nantz said.
Tirico had almost the same reaction. When I talked to him on Monday following the tournament, he had heard his final call several times from audio clips online. But immediately after the tournament, when he was asked on Golf Channel to describe his call, he couldn’t remember. “I just did it from the top of my head,” he said.
For the record, after Tiger Woods sank his tournament-winning putt on the 18th hole, Nantz simply said, “A return to glory.” Then he went silent for nearly three minutes as Tiger hugged his family and competitors.
Tirico said, “Here it is. Woods has two feet to win the Masters. Everyone quiets down. Back behind the ball. Woods putts it. It’s in. He has done it. Tiger is back. Tiger is back on top. Tiger Woods — the 2019 Masters champion. One of the great comeback stories in American sports history. Masters No. 5. Major No. 15. And Augusta National roars like never before.”
Major moment spoke for itself
I asked Jim Nantz about his decision to remain silent for nearly three minutes after Tiger Woods’ Masters-winning putt, during which time Woods celebrated with his family, caddie and other golfers. Nantz, who called the final hole from Butler Cabin, said remaining quiet was one the easiest decisions he made.
“After that putt dropped on 18, there wasn’t a chance in the world that I was going to say anything. Lance Barrow’s a great producer and we work together exceptionally well. He’s in the truck half a mile away. I’m in Butler Cabin already. And Nick [Faldo] is 300 yards away from me in the tower on the 18th green. We had a three-way line of communication going out to the millions.
“As soon as the ball dropped, I said to Lance on the talk-back switch, ‘I’m not saying anything for a long time.’ Lance and I wanted to make sure since that none of us were together, the next time somebody spoke it was going to be me. We were going ride this thing out and sit back and enjoy it. I never would have jumped on a moment that was that big. It was just so big. There was nothing you could do to add to it. You could only ruin it.” — J.O.
Both understood their roles in the historical significance of Woods’ win. Their voices will narrate a clip that is certain to be shown in highlight reels for decades to come.
“I thought about saying ‘Tiger’s back,’” Nantz said. “But when the clip is played back 200 years from now, that’s going to be the moment where Tiger returned to glory. I really believe that.”
Tirico: “I tried to describe what Tiger was doing. In 15 years, when someone plays that highlight, they’ll either think it was really good or not.”
One of the questions Nantz and Tirico field most consistently is whether they script those championship lines. Both said they don’t, saying that scripted remarks tend to take them out of the moment.
Even when Woods only needed a bogey on 18 to win, both announcers insisted that they were not considering their final call.
Tirico referenced calling Jean van de Velde’s infamous blow-up at the 1999 British Open when the French golfer carded a triple bogey on the final hole and eventually lost in a playoff.
“We’ve all done enough tournaments that we’ve burned ourselves a little bit,” Tirico said. “You want to be careful that you don’t give somebody the tournament because all of a sudden somebody could hit a really bad shot and you never know what they are going to make.”
For Nantz, who has called the biggest NFL, NCAA basketball and golf events for CBS, he has more opportunities.
“There’s a tonnage of moments where I thankfully get to put the appropriate narrative to an important moment,” Nantz said. “It’s a one shot deal at it. The moment comes and goes.”