Since 1956, CBS Sports has been the broadcast partner with The Masters. The network has covered the most memorable moments, including Tiger Woods‘ chip shot on the 16th hole in 2005, and Jack Nicklaus’ incredible 30 on the back nine in 1986.
Unsurprisingly, with a partnership that long together, there have been some contentious moments. One of the most controversial happened in 1994 with CBS commentator Gary McCord and remarks the club deemed “distasteful.” He was banned for life. Interestingly, he wasn’t the first CBS announcer to get in hot water with Augusta National and become persona non grata.
Gary McCord makes comments that upset Masters officials
Gary McCord started at CBS Sports in 1986 as a golf analyst. Early on, McCord set the tone with his quirky behavior and his willingness to say anything, even if it might raise more than a few eyebrows. While appealing to the audience, his irreverence wasn’t always well received by the powers that be.
In 1994, McCord’s freewheeling style was on full display for all to see and hear during the broadcast of The Masters that year. During the coverage, McCord joked about the lightning-quick speed of the greens, suggesting at one point, Augusta National used “bikini wax” to make them so fast.
During another part of the broadcast, McCord was describing the course layout when he said several mounds behind a green resembled “body bags.”
Augusta National bans Gary McCord from Masters for life
Several months after Gary McCord’s comments, the network announced he would not be a part of the broadcast team at the Masters the following year because of his “irreverent commentary.”
“In prior years we had expressed concern to CBS about the appropriateness of some of Mr. McCord’s commentary,” the Masters chairman Jack Stephens said in a statement. “In spite of CBS’s assurances to the contrary, Mr. McCord’s remarks in 1994 were even more distasteful and conflicted directly with our goals. We therefore felt compelled to seek a change for 1995.”
Following the decision, McCord’s agent Eddie Elias, said he understood it was the Masters who made the call and didn’t blame CBS.
“But I don’t think it will hurt Gary at all. Actually, I think it’s a home run for him,” Elias told the New York Times. “Gary didn’t set out to be irreverent. His comments weren’t out of line, just journalistic observations done in a cute way.”
Elias had no way of knowing Gary McCord’s ban for 1995 would be extended to a lifetime ban and he would never set foot on Augusta National ever again.
Jack Whitaker banned by Augusta National for years
Gary McCord’s ban made headlines when it happened in 1994. And each subsequent year, it was always conspicuous to see one of the network’s most popular announcers throughout the golf season vanish for that one week in April. Interestingly, McCord wasn’t the first announcer to raise the ire of Augusta National.
Back in 1966, veteran CBS announcer Jack Whitaker was calling the action when the tournament had to be decided by an 18-hole playoff on Monday. As a large gathering of fans started congregating around the 18th green, Whitaker said “here comes the mob.”
“It looked to me like a mob of people scurrying toward the green, but Mr. (Clifford) Roberts (tournament chairman) took offense,” Whitaker recalled years later. “He said the gallery at the Masters was not a mob. And that was that.”
Whitaker was banned from the Masters for five years before a CBS executive invited him to attend as a fan. Ironically, that same year one of the television announcers fell ill and the same chairman who had banished him years earlier called on him to work the tournament.
Whitaker agreed and announced that year and resumed his normal responsibilities the following year with CBS. He covered the Masters for years after.
Jack Whitaker and Gary McCord will be forever linked as two of golf’s top announcers who had the shine of their distinguished careers somewhat tarnished by the Augusta National word police.