Strange co-hosts ESPN's Masters coverage
INTERVIEW WITH CURTIS STRANGE
Curtis Strange was known for his intensity during his playing days, and he brings that same passion to his role this week for ESPN.
Strange, 60, will serve as co-host with Mike Tirico for the network’s coverage of the first and second rounds of the Masters Tournament. The two-time U.S. Open champion also will be on SportsCenter for frequent updates from Augusta.
This week is shaping up like most Masters, with numerous storylines, Strange said. Here are his thoughts on a few of the big ones:
On Tiger Woods’ returning to action: “He has one big, long push left to break any records. Six or seven years. You have to start it somewhere. You have to get out there, put a score on the scoreboard. You’ve got to get on with it. We all have demons as we play this game. Whatever demons he has, we all have issues. I have never found the answer at home; I’ve always found it on tour.”
On Rory McIlroy and his quest for the career Grand Slam: “He knows what he could possibly accomplish this week. This is the first tournament he can accomplish it, so there probably is some pressure to that. It’s a Mount Rushmore-type feat.”
On Bubba Watson and his bid to repeat: “It’s going to be difficult to win three out of four. The only person who has done that is Jack Nicklaus. I think he has the length and ability to do it. So much depends on how he putts.”
Strange thinks there are plenty of favorites this week, but he likes Jordan Spieth to win.
“Between him and Rory, you would pick either one right now to make a 10-foot putt to win a tournament,” Strange said. “He’s already so accomplished and mature beyond his years.”
Thirty years ago, Strange almost fashioned one of the most remarkable comebacks in Masters history. After opening with 80, he bounced back and by Sunday afternoon had the lead going into the final nine. But he found the water on Nos. 13 and 15, and Bernhard Langer won by two shots.
“I still remember most of it. Back up, all of it,” Strange said. “Your career isn’t made up of all good play. You regroup and improve. Fall back and get better. That was just one of those times. You’ve got to get up and go do it again. It’s easier for me to say now 30 years later.
“I’ve had a long time to think about it. Let me tell you, it hurt. It was my first chance to win a major, and my first dose of pressure on steroids. No disrespect to Bernhard Langer, but I can still say to myself I should be going to the Champions Dinner. We all lose golf tournaments. We hate to lose one that’s so big, so historic.”
The Masters has the smallest field of any of the four majors, and in recent years the average number of players has been in the mid-90s. This year, 97 players are scheduled to play.
The largest number of competitors came in 1962, when 109 players teed off at Augusta National. The record for smallest field, 42, came in 1938 and 1942.
Arnold Palmer had to skip Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest because of a dislocated shoulder, but the “King” still plans to serve as an honorary starter this morning. Here are five reasons why the 85-year-old Palmer is still the coolest golfer on the planet:
5 Arnold Palmer, the drink: Mix lemonade and sweet tea, and you have it. Does any other golfer have a drink named for him? Didn’t think so.
4 Humble beginnings: Palmer was the son of a greenskeeper. He wasn’t a silver spoon, country club type, but now he owns one.
3 TV presence: “You know, the camera either loves you or hates you. The camera fell in love with him,” CBS producer Frank Chirkinian once said. Palmer’s popularity was partly because of television, and he paid it forward in the 1990s when he started The Golf Channel.
2 Grand Slam: Thirty years after Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam, Palmer revived talk about a modern slam consisting of the four professional majors. Palmer won the Masters and U.S. Open in 1960, and went to the British Open when it wasn’t a must-attend event. He came within one shot of capturing three majors in a row.
1 The hitch: When Palmer hitched up his pants, it was on. The four-time Masters champion didn’t always win, but you knew he would provide some thrills along with some spills.