Jim Nantz has been saying the phrase so long he felt the need to correct Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner.
During a conference call Monday, Williams recited the famous line as, “It’s the Masters tradition like no other.”
Nantz jumped in to set the record straight.
“It’s a tradition unlike any other,” Nantz said. “I think I’ve said that a time or two in the last quarter century.”
Indeed, while Nantz is seen by more than 100 million viewers when he calls the Super Bowl, and by a huge primetime audience for the NCAA Final Four, the Masters is his signature event.
This will be Nantz’s 28th Masters. He did his first in 1986 when Jack Nicklaus roared to his epic victory. Ken Venturi told the young kid: “Jimmy, you might do 50 of these, but you’ll never see another one like this.”
While Venturi was right, Nantz has called a few Masters that have packed plenty of memorable stuff. If all goes as planned, Nantz plans to retire when he does his 50th Masters at the age of 75.
Nantz, though, isn’t thinking about 2035. His focus is on Thursday.
Here’s my Q/A with Nantz:
What is it about you and Masters?
It’s the one event which people relate with me the most. I might be talking to a football coach in August, and they’ll ask me, “What about Augusta?” Fans at games ask me, ‘Who’s going to win the Masters this year?’
It’s the one event I think about all year long. The Masters is in my heart.
For me, I trace my wanting to be a voice to watching the Masters during my adolescence. I was captivated by the Masters and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It was a like a young Nick Faldo in ’71, ’72. He was training to be a cyclist. He watched the Masters, turned to his parents and said, ‘I want to take up golf.’ He was inspired by watching Jack Nicklaus.
I obsessed over it. I wanted to get good enough to get there. That’s what the Masters did for me.
How difficult is it for you to shift gears? You’re going from the commotion of the NCAA tournament to the more genteel environment of Augusta National.
It’s never an issue. They each have a different rhythm and pacing. But stylistically, you don’t worry about how you’re going to approach the game. That’s organic. When you’re sitting in a place absorbing the scene around, you adapt to the energy level.
I get asked a lot: “How in the world do you go from the Final Four on Monday with all that excitement and the next weekend, your voice drops to a whisper?” Most people don’t think about it. If you go to a basketball game one night and a golf tournament the next, would you still be shouting at the person next to you? It’s not that complicated.
What’s your routine when you get to Augusta?
When I get there on Tuesday, I’m not going to observe the birds. I’m not checking out the flora. I want to find every top player and have a face-to-face with them. I’m trying to get some fresh information. The problem is they all want to talk to me about the NCAA tournament.
It looks genteel and that’s the way it should look on TV with the sweet Augusta music that molds you as a viewer. “Oh, they must have just rolled out bed to do this. It looks so peaceful.” No, the reality is much different. It’s not genteel for us.
Do you cover this tournament differently?
Nobody’s telling me to do anything differently. We have more broadcast positions than we do for any other tournament. So it’s different in that sense.
Through the years, I have so many stories and information stored in my head. Someone will hit a shot and it’ll strike a comparison to a shot someone hit in the ’70s.
There’s so much history there. I love the fact that you can feel the presence of the fathers of the sport. I think of Furman Bisher (the late long-time columnist from Atlanta who was a fixture at Augusta). Sarazen. Nelson. I do. I can’t explain it.
I just happened to be there the last time Byron Nelson walked the course. He was escorting his wife Peggy down to Amen Corner. I ran up in a golf cart and said, ‘Can I take you down there?’ It was a special moment.
Every year, you reflect back on a famous Masters prior to the final round Sunday (Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET). What is this year’s selection?
Ben Crenshaw winning in 1995. It was the week he lost his coach Harvey Penick. We flew in Carl Jackson (his long-time caddie at Augusta National) to do a side-by-side interview. It’s going to be an unbelievable show. I’m not trying to sell you anything here, but it’s probably the best of all these shows we’ve done. It’s a very, very touching story.
Wednesday: Jim Nantz, winemaker.