Time for The Masters — the best digital experience in sports

Gary Player (R) congratulates Jack Nicklaus after Nicklaus' hole in one (Sam Greenwood/Augusta National)

Gary Player (R) congratulates Jack Nicklaus after Nicklaus’ hole in one (Sam Greenwood/Augusta National)

There’s no small bit of irony in the fact that The Masters, one of the few places left on earth where you absolutely cannot carry a working cell phone, offers perhaps the best digital experience in all of sports. I’m biased, because I like golf and like the tradition and history of the Masters competition, but I would challenge you to find another event, team or league that offers the breadth and depth of the online/mobile experience brought forth by The Masters, CBS and IBM.

With live competition beginning Thursday morning, I’m not worried that I won’t be next to a TV set for the excellent, mostly commercial-free broadcast (Thursday-Friday on ESPN, Saturday-Sunday on CBS). That’s because if I am online or on my phone I will have access to no fewer than five different live feeds from Augusta, including featured groups as well as focused coverage on “Amen Corner,” the classic stretch between the 11th and 13th holes of the famed Augusta National course.

What makes the online and mobile experience so good? Production that parallels the TV broadcast, for one. No need for cable contract authorization, for another. That The Masters is like Harvard with its endowments — and as such doesn’t need to pander to advertisers — is nirvana for all golf fans, but especially so for those of us who watch a lot of sports action these days online. While TV commercials are easily endured (or muted, or skipped) it seems of late that broadcasters are doing their best to reclaim eyeball turf online, by subjecting digital viewers to more and more invasive ads.

During the recent NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament there was a lot of praise for the online product, but nowhere did I see anyone report the fact we found out — that when you were watching online or on your phone, during commercials the Turner/NCAA folks kindly blocked your ability to mute the sound on the screen controls. On my phone during the great regional game between Kentucky and Notre Dame I also saw a small button with a Pizza Hut logo remain on the left side of the screen during play. You would never try that on a broadcast offering, but for many events it seems OK to smack the online viewers around for any profit possible.

During the Masters, that’s not happening. (Or at least it didn’t last year! Hope I’m not jinxing things.)

Anyway — when play starts Thursday just go to Masters.com or download the app, watch away and see if you don’t agree. If there’s another online experience that’s better, I’d like to hear about it.

BONUS: Watch the Golden Bear back one up for a hole in one during the par 3 contest.

Watching Golf this Week: The British Open, and the Tiger Internet Channel debut

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 11.21.37 PMIn honor of ESPN fulfilling our longtime wish for continuous coverage of Tiger Woods at a golf tournament, we are bringing back our Watching Golf this Week feature. And for this weekend’s third major of the season, the British Open (aka the Open Championship) the viewing guide is easy: Just check ESPN, both on the tube and online, because the worldwide leader will give you wall to wall coverage of the action that starts Thursday morning at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.

So what’s the deal with the Tiger Cam? We haven’t interviewed anyone at ESPN but it’s easy to see how this idea came about: With Eldrick finally returning to the pro golf majors scene for the first time this year after back surgery, there is an incredible amount of pent-up Tiger interest. Still easily the biggest draw in golf — just go to any tourney he’s in and watch where the crowd goes — Woods is an even bigger interest item this week, with everyone wanting to see if he is A) recovered enough to play competitively, and if so, B) if he’s good enough to start the Nicklaus majors-hunt in earnest.

While ESPN will most certainly cut to Woods whenever possible during normal telecast coverage, the idea of putting a camera on Woods only and using ESPN3, one of the company’s “Internet channels” to show streaming coverage is a masterstroke. Not only will you lure in potential “casual” viewers who might not give a hoot who Martin Kaymer is but who will watch Woods, you will also likely get golf nuts doing the two-screen dance, with the TV on the regular coverage and a phone, tablet or laptop following Woods. At the very least it’s a great experiment and one we expect will be copied (at least we hope so) in other sports, soon.

But while you might not want be so fired up to watch something like a “quarterback cam” or a “third baseman cam,” individual player coverage in things like golf tournaments is a perfect idea. In fact, most online golf efforts for the majors over the past few years have had “featured group” channels online, where they follow attractive pairings throughout a round. This is not really much different except for the focus on Woods, which some will no doubt say is unworthy, since Woods is only a single player, he’s not bigger than the game, blah blah blah. Tiger fans get it, and will (I predict) turn out in the millions to watch every shot he takes over the weekend. Here’s hoping for Tiger, ESPN and for golf that the cams stay on through Sunday. Plus you can watch it mobile, via the WatchESPN app. Good on ya, ESPN.

There will, of course, be other stories from Liverpool, including whatever magic defending champ Phil Mickelson can conjure, and whether or not we will see Major-winning Rory McIlroy finally fulfill his Open dreams, or whether he’ll continue to sputter in the big events. If I could I’d bet a few pounds on American Ricky Fowler, who has been steadily doing well in majors this year. Is this his breakthrough event? Are the British ready for an all-orange winner on Sunday? Or will Sergio Garcia finally come through? It all gets underway Thursday, and for once we’ll have a way to watch and see exactly everything that Tiger does.

BONUS: Doug Ferguson penned an excellent, technically correct article about Wi-Fi at Royal Liverpool. Hello Augusta, can you hear me now?


This is long, but worth it… what follows is the entire ESPN lineup of content from The Open (all times U.S. Eastern):

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.58.08 AM

Get yourself close to the Claret Jug at The Open’s Facebook page.

The Open’s own Twitter feed.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer. If you’re not following Geoff you are missing the online boat.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend.
Doug Ferguson is the lead golf writer for AP. Good Twitter insights that often aren’t part of your wire-service lead.

One of the better event apps, the Open’s App has everything you want in a handheld device app. iPad, iPhone and Android, even Windows. You will still need the ESPN contract to view live video, though. Still, well worth the download especially for the Thursday-Friday times when you may be at work.


Everything we’re reading says that Royal Liverpool (aka Hoylake) will play much differently than it did back in 2006, when Tiger did his 1-iron stinger thing, hitting only one driver all weekend en route to victory. According to an AP story today Tiger says the greens are soft, which might mean that American players unused to links golf might have a better chance. To us, it really doesn’t matter which course they use for the Open Championship. We’re so tired of TPC layouts by this time of the year that basically anything links-like is a refreshing slap in the face, like an ocean breeze. Fore, gentlemen.


C’mon, do you need to ask? HEFTY!

1. Jimmy Walker, 2,322 points
2. Bubba Watson, 2,135
3. Matt Kuchar, 1,725
4. Dustin Johnson, 1,701
5. Jordan Spieth, 1,636

1. Adam Scott; 2. Henrik Stenson; 3. Justin Rose; 4. Bubba Watson; 5. Matt Kuchar.

And… for those of you late risers who miss the Open coverage, don’t forget to watch Annika take on Michael Jordan and John Elway in Tahoe at the American Century Classic:

Friday, July 18 — NBC, 4 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 19 — NBC, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Sunday, July 20 — NBC, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.

Watching Golf this Week: The Memorial, AKA Playing at Jack’s House

Memorial golf Did you miss us golf fans? Yes, MSR’s weekly how to watch golf primer took a couple weeks off. No big deal, we just got busy and hey, we’re just like the top golfers sometimes — can’t be at every stop!

But we digress. On to the golf, at the Memorial which, thanks to its “ownership” by uber golf legend Jack Nicklaus this weekend gets mini-major status — kind of like, say, an NFL Divisional playoff game. Or round 2 of the NHL playoffs. However you categorize it, all the big names are in Ohio this weekend, though after watching Rory McIlroy struggle on Thursday he probably ain’t going to be there for Saturday or Sunday.

Defending champ Tiger Woods? A 1-under on Thursday is just fine, even though it puts him 6 back of early leader Charl Schwartzel. Remember, Tiger does well on courses he likes (Torrey Pines, Bay Hill) and he’s won here five times before. So if he’s within three or four on Sunday, we still like his chances.

Are you feeling the U.S. Open yet? Two weeks away and we are already getting ready for Marion. It was cool to watch the Golf Channel replay of the 1971 playoff between Nicklaus and Lee Trevino — just loving to see all the new cool stuff GC is doing, including putting all its shows online. What a surprise, but not to us! Golf people love their online coverage, and Golf Channel is showing how smart it is by adding live online simulcasts and now studio shows too.

More coming soon about online golf, and about AT&T’s new method of bringing cellular coverage to golf events — but not right now. Still busy with other stuff so enjoy the Memorial this weekend, especially online where there is more coverage than you think Broadcast is on CBS.


(all times Eastern)
Friday, May 31 — Golf Channel, 2:30 p.m. — 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 1 — Golf Channel, 12:30 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.; CBS, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 2 — Golf Channel, 12 p.m. — 2 p.m.; CBS, 2:30 p.m. — 6 p.m.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
12 p.m. — 6 p.m., Thursday-Sunday. The live broadcasts are also available to subscribers on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com.

This a better deal for those not living in the U.S., because it’s free internationally. Inside the U.S. you will pay (due to rights fees) $1.99 per event or $9.99 for the whole year. Gives you the CBS feed, audio version. Click here for more info and payment plans for your area.

The PGA’s Live@ is back! The Memorial gets full “major-like” treatment, with simulcast coverage, featured groups and more. Thankfully the PGA has put all your options on this page so click there and see what’s online, live.

Get another online fix via Shot Tracker.

Here’s The Memorial Facebook page.


The Memorial Twitter feed.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer. If you’re not following Geoff you are missing the online boat.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend. Now leading the Wei (hah!) with Google+ Hangouts during most tourneys.
Doug Ferguson is the lead golf writer for AP. Good Twitter insights that often aren’t part of your wire-service lead.
Matt Ginella is a former Golf Digest writer now at Golf Channel. Your guide to the best golf course reviews, evar. Plus great columnist-type commentary on a regular basis.

Muirfield Village Golf Club — designed by Jack for tournament play. Here’s the tourney site course page, which looks plain but has a lot of interactivity if you click around, video flybys and multiple hole vantage points. The Nicklaus design company page has some stunning photos as well.

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch has things pretty well nailed down with a special Memorial site. Interactive course map, video, features, it’s all here. Hurray for newspapers.

Tiger Woods. Or do you not remember this shot?

Get Ready for the PGA Cell Phone Backlash — After the Mickelson Memorial Incident

You don’t have to be a website called Mobile Sports Report to see this storm brewing: The reported bad cell-phone behavior that might have led to Phil Mickelson’s withdrawl from the Memorial Thursday is almost certain to cause a cell phone backlash from the PGA Tour.

Though phones didn’t used to be allowed at tour events — and special tourneys like the U.S. Open (run by the USGA) are pretty damn clear that you can’t even think of bringing a phone or a camera phone on the shuttle bus, much less at the course — many other tour stops are now allowing or even encouraging folks to bring their mobile devices. Check out what went on at the recent HP Byron Nelson tourney down in Texas, where some savvy social media folks turned the knobs up to 11, based on a lot of on-course fan-phone interaction.

Great for marketing. But is it good for the game? It’s clear the “talent” doesn’t think so. And they’re not going to stay quiet about it.

Phil himself is probably too nice and too media-savvy to come right out and say bad things about fans — patrons — whatever you call folks at a golf tournament — but new Masters champion Bubba Watson has no such restraining bolt, and told anyone who was listening that people taking pictures with cell phones was the main reason why Phil got Phed up (and shot his way to a 79).

I’m going to quote the entire report by AP’s Rusty Miller (which we found on the PGA’s site) because it highlights the big, bad point: Apparently a LOT of people were using their cell-phone cameras whenever they pleased, golfers backswings be damned:

DUBLIN, Ohio — Everyone has seen a golfer swivel and angrily stare at a news photographer who accidentally clicked a shutter during a swing.

Now imagine what it’s like when there are 10,000 or even 40,000 people on a golf course, all with cell phones that take pictures.

With a huge gallery following the marquee matchup of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson in Thursday’s first round of the Memorial, the continual distraction of fans with cell phones may have played a role in Mickelson’s withdrawal from the tournament.

“It took Phil out of his game,” Watson said of the continual clicks and snaps of cell phone-camera shutters. “Phil’s a great player and a great champion and it just took him out of his game. It’s sad. It’s sad that cell phones can make or break a championship.”

Mickelson said the reason he was going home in the wake of a frustrating round of 7-over 79 was because he was tired after a recent trip to Italy and France to celebrate wife Amy’s 40th birthday.

“There were a few phones out there,” Fowler said with a laugh. “There were a few times when we had to back off and reset. You could see Phil was a little fatigued and was having trouble blocking it out a bit.”

Mickelson made the turn at 1 over before struggling. Fowler shot a 71 and Watson, who won the Masters last month, had a 75.

Watson blamed a PGA Tour rule which permits fans to have cell phones on the course — if they are on vibrate and are only used in specified areas.

“Yeah, it was bad. But it’s been pretty bad ever since they made that rule,” Watson said. “When they make these marquee pairings, more people are going to follow them and more people want to take pictures. So it makes it very difficult. Ever since they made that rule that cell phones are allowed, it’s just not fun playing.”

Whoa. On one level you might be tempted to say, get a grip, Bubba. You (and Phil) are playing a game for millions of dollars of someone else’s money… and a cell phone noise is making your life miserable? I mean — baseball players have to hit a ball that is coming at them at 100 mph, not one that is lying still on the grass. And they don’t mind the noise. So… why should golfers have or expect complete silence, when they are playing in a very public arena?

Originally this was my argument on this matter — I think if you try to ban phones again you may end up with nobody at golf tournaments other than the Masters… and maybe the U.S. Open. But I think you also have to recognize tradition and what golf is all about. There’s a certain tranquility that most every golfer expects and loves when they are playing themselves. You don’t have to be Bubba to be pissed off at someone talking on a cell phone on a golf course. So in that sense Bubba is more like the rest of us than some pampered star. So I am admittedly confused now over whether I think the players have grown Colin Montgomerie ears, or whether your average fan is a self-important jerk like the people I see texting while they are driving on the freeway. Maybe, some of both.

Our favorite golf blogger/Tweeter Stephanie Wei was following up on this with cascaded Tweets and a good recap post — basically saying that for some reason there were just a lot of jerks on the phones Thursday. She also believed (like several other golf writers) that Mickelson’s withdrawl was done to make a point — that cell phones shouldn’t be allowed near the field of play. Phil is getting some roasting for his move — basically golf purists here, saying that you don’t WD because you are mad and playing poorly — but Wei makes a great point by saying that even at fan fiesta tourneys like the Waste Management in Phoenix the fans are smarter in how they use their phones. Anyone from Ohio who wants to weigh in here, feel free.

What I expect is that by sometime on Friday we will hear from the PGA loud and clear about how anyone seen using a cell phone in other than “designated areas” is going to be ushered off the grounds. And I’m not sure how I feel about that, other than that this is pretty obviously a clash of the magnitude of the topic as to why we started this site: Technology, especially mobile technology, is crashing into sports in ways nobody really imagined. How does it get solved? That’s the story for tomorrow, the day after, and the day after. Stay tuned on this bat channel, because we’ll be covering it. Maybe via our phones or tablets.

(Some of Stephanie’s Tweets embedded below)

Watching Golf this Week: The Memorial, or ‘We’re All Back at Jack’s House’

Just when Zach Johnson threatened to kill off his own victory with a last-hole brain fart — and drag the golf season into perhaps fatal tedium with people talking nonstop about rules — golf fans are saved by the arrival of the Memorial this week, a sort of mini-major that will have all the big names back in play, including Tiger, Rory, and even Bubba the baby dad! Plus Dustin Johnson back from fighting off back injuries and drug rumors, and the rest… Rickie… Dufner… it’s the 6th major, the Memorial!

The course, of course, is Jack’s own spread, otherwise known as Muirfield Village in Dublin, O-HI-O. We’ve never been there but if the best golfer ever built a tournament-tailored spread from the dirt up you know it’s gonna be good. And it is. And so will be the golf, some of which you will be able to watch online, since the Tour’s Live@ online video is back this week. Plus there is bonus weekend early coverage on the Golf Channel, so if you’ve been longing to watch something other than Jason Dufner and his dip, this is the weekend to get back on the couch or in front of your mobile device of choice. In addition to enjoying top-notch golf, this might be the perfect time to explore real estate opportunities, particularly unique ones like barndominiums. If you’ve ever been curious about alternative housing options, there’s everything to know about buying a barndominium. These versatile structures combine the rustic charm of a barn with the modern comforts of a condominium, offering a distinctive living experience that’s gaining popularity. Whether you’re looking for a primary residence or a spacious getaway, understanding the ins and outs of purchasing a barndominium can help you make an informed decision that suits your lifestyle and investment goals.

Here’s where to follow the action:


(all times Eastern)
Thursday, May 31 — Golf Channel, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Friday, June 1 — Golf Channel, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 2 — Golf Channel, 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m.; CBS, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 3 — Golf Channel, 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.; CBS, 2:30 p.m. — 6 p.m.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
12 p.m. — 6 p.m., Thursday-Sunday

Live@ Returns! You can watch the Memorial live on your computer, or handheld device (download the PGA app) from 11 a.m. Eastern to 6 p.m. each day. If your Android app is fuzzy on video, won’t you comment below?

If all you want is shots and distances (which can be addicting) get your fix via Shot Tracker for the Memorial.

The Memorial’s is right here.

Memorial Golf — the tourney’s own Twitter feed. So far these things have been… underwhelming. Let’s see if Memorial can tweet like a champ.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend (and she is back from a brief couple weeks off the tour. Already sharing Instagrams from Muirfield!)

Muirfield Village Golf Club — designed by Jack for tournament play. Here’s the tourney site course page, which looks plain but has a lot of interactivity if you click around, video flybys and multiple hole vantage points. The Nicklaus design company page has some stunning photos as well.

Steve Stricker. Remember him? And yes… Tiger has won this thing four times.

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch has things pretty well nailed down with a big Memorial Xtra website. Interactive course map, video, features, it’s all here. Hurray for newspapers.

1. Jason Dufner, 1,735 points
2. Hunter Mahan, 1,427 points
3. Zach Johnson, 1,386
4. Bubba Watson, 1,372
5. Phil Mickelson, 1,307

See the full standings for the FedEx Cup points list.

1. Luke Donald; 2. Rory McIlroy; 3. Lee Westwood; 4. Bubba Watson; 5. Matt Kuchar.
See the official World Golf Ranking list.