TV View: Hootie & the Blowfish get a rare look in at Augusta
Actual real-life spectators were a very welcome addition on day one at the Masters
Bubba Watson had the earphones in for his warm-up. Photo: David J Phillip/AP Photo
It mightn’t feel like it these days, but time must be zooming by because instead of a year it seems like only, oh, five months since we were last watching the Masters (Golf Dept: It was only five months ago). Another four-day golfing feast from the Augusta National was upon us, then, 30 varieties of azaleas on view but not a single tulip. Apart from Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam, maybe.
That’s not being disrespectful to either former Masters winner, it’s just that they were close enough to being the only people in the 88-man field who Nick Dougherty and Paul McGinley didn’t include in their list of potential 2021 victors.
Poor Nick was stuck in the Sky studio back in Blighty, but Paul had the good fortune to be mingling with the azaleas in Georgia, him surrounded by ..... make sure you’re sitting down ..... real life spectators. In or around 12,000 of them, too. The Sky Fake Crowd Noises Department was, then, spared the task of having to generate a Buck and Chuck hollering “GET IN THE HOOOOOOOOLE!” at every available opportunity.
The day had kicked off with Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley saluting special guest and honorary starter Lee Elder, the first black man to play in the Masters back in 1975. Another of the morning’s VIP guests, Gary Player, applauded Elder lustily, Player having been one of apartheid’s most enthusiastic fan-boys back in the day. You just wished Elder had a spare five iron handy to shove it where the sun tends not to shine.
While Nick didn’t have any actual real humans to interact with in the studio, he had Sky’s CGI wizardry to keep him company, Dustin Johnson, for example, beamed in to the room so Nick could analyse his swing. Dustin is a big lad, in or around the 6’4 mark, but he made Nick look a little like a Lilliputian in the shadow of Gulliver. Mind you, he was put in the ha’penny place when Bryson DeChambeau turned up, the walls and roof of the studio having to be removed to accommodate his presence.
Out on the course, Ewen Murray and Wayne Riley were warming up, as was Bubba Watson ahead of his opening shot. Wayne noted that Bubba was wearing headphones and wondered what he was listening to. “Hootie & the Blowfish,” he speculated, which, and this is just a rough guess, was the first time Hootie & the Blowfish featured at the Masters.
By the end of the opening hour we were fairly sure that Delta Airlines is the presenting partner of the Masters, while also being assured that golf is evil. Take Lee Westwood’s experience, the poor lad’s forehead being the only part of him we saw for much of the day, him more often than not being buried in a bunker or behind a tree.
Ewen told us that Lee had replaced his fiancée Helen Storey with his teenage son Sam as his caddy for the Masters and you feared, based on how the round was going, that the gist of their interactions went something like....
Lee: “Give me the eight iron.”
Sam: “Why should I?”
Lee: “While you live under my roof, you’ll give me the eight iron!”
Sam: “I HATE YOU.”
Tyler Strafaci, meanwhile, had a 10-ish foot putt on the ninth that nearly ended up in Wyoming, not even Butch Harmon’s pleas of ‘WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!” slowing it down. “It’s almost like putting around the bend of a velodrome, it’s just ridiculous,” Andrew Coltart sighed.
There was, admittedly, a certain frustration with Sky’s focus on a mere handful of players, but their remote-control-pressing directions only led to a game called Beehive Bedlam in which you are asked to help bees make honey. It’s possible that the wrong button was pressed, which might have been how our Rory summed up his day in Augusta, only Ian Poulter’s pants making a bigger show of themselves.
Forget Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson and the like, though, the performance of the day came from Ewen when he broke in to his chats with Butch to remind us, with no little excitement, to tune in to Burnley v Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. No more than Butch, we were thinking: “WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!”