Back nine is still par for Masters


Since the other two American major golf tournaments (the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open) feature 18-hole coverage for the final two rounds, the natural question is when will the Masters join suit?

Frank Chirkinian, CBS' coordinating producer for golf coverage, would sure like to know the answer to that question, too.

"We've been ready to do 18 holes for the last 15 years. The front nine has been wired and we've been waiting," said Chirkinian, who will be at the helm of the network's coverage of the 59th Masters this weekend, tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. (Channel 13).

"The club will make that decision on a year-to-year basis, and if they decide to do 18-hole coverage, we'll be ready to go."

And so, CBS basically will do the same nine-hole coverage it has done for the last 39 years, though with a few more cameras -- 28 total -- and a lot more tape machines than in the 1956 broadcasts.

In keeping with the stately and, in many cases, antiquated traditions of Augusta National, the network will commemorate the 40th anniversary of its Masters coverage quietly, with a simple statement from some guy named Walter Cronkite.

On the course, no obvious names jump out as easy favorites to challenge last year's winner, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, though Jim Nantz, who will anchor and announce from the 18th hole, says John Daly and Greg Norman -- neither of whom has ever won at Augusta -- have a shot this year.

One golfer who is bound to command some attention, should he make the cut, is Tiger Woods, the 19-year-old Stanford freshman and reigning national amateur champion who is making his first visit to Augusta. Woods is widely identified as one of the rising stars of golf, and Nantz sees no reason to disagree.

"Tiger is the most accomplished amateur we've seen in a while," he said. "The guy is mentally prepared to handle all the scrutiny. He has the total package and he's one totally impressive human being."

In addition to Nantz, who will be joined at 18 by Ken Venturi, the rest of the CBS assignments have Peter Kostis at the 10th hole, Verne Lundquist at 11 and 12, Tom Weiskopf at 13, Bobby Clampett on the 14th tower, the venerable Ben Wright at 15 and 16 and Jim Nelford at 17, with Bill Macatee conducting studio interviews.

Desert rumbles

Normally, we cast a skeptical eye on pay-per-view fights, but tomorrow's Showtime card from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas at 9 p.m. could be interesting, if you have the $35.95 to $44.95 suggested retail price to fork over. Especially when you consider that former champion Mike Tyson will do some pre-fight analysis.

The headline fights are heavyweight title bouts, pitting Oliver McCall against former champ Larry Holmes for the WBC crown, and Tony Tucker and Bruce Seldon fighting for the vacant WBA title.

Also, Julio Cesar Chavez, your WBC super lightweight champion, will meet Giovanni Parisi, and Felix Trinidad places his IBF welterweight crown on the line against Roger Turner.

Other stuff

As the start of what promises to be a long summer of Cal Ripken features, CNN's "Baseball '95," kicks off tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. with just such a piece. And week two of NHL hockey on Fox airs Sunday at 3 p.m. (Channel 45) with the New Jersey Devils playing host to the New York Rangers, and between periods a feature on St. Louis' Brett Hull.

And finally . . .

As you know, we've given Billy Packer a pretty rough ride this week in this space, but he may not be the overly technical, sexist lout we thought he was.

Nantz, Packer's on-air NCAA basketball partner, revealed the other day that Packer broke down in tears Monday night after UCLA captured the national championship out of joy that former Bruins coach John Wooden, who led the school to 10 titles during the 1960s and 1970s, was able to travel to Seattle to see his school win another crown.

Gosh, it's nice to see someone stay in touch with his sensitive side.

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