AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta National when it comes to the Masters has a history of being on the cutting edge when it comes to delivering the viewing experience to those watching at home. One of the first to do golf telecasts in color (1967), the Masters also was the first to broadcast golf live in high definition (HD) in 2000. On Wednesday another TV milestone was reached as the Par 3 Contest became the first live national sporting event to be broadcast in 3-D.
"Augusta National has always tried to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation," said Augusta National member Hugh McColl.
Can't argue with that. This latest venture is a little like Disney World, without the need for a Fast Pass. In addition to today's Par 3 Contest, at least a dozen Sony cameras placed across the course will provide 3-D coverage of holes 14, 16 and 18 during the tournament Thursday through Sunday, with rotating coverage of holes 10-13 and 17. The 3-D feed will be from 4 to 6 pm Thursday and Friday, 5 to 7 pm Saturday and Sunday. To experience the Masters in 3-D, viewers need 3-D televisions and glasses with HD cable service.
I was lucky enough to sit in for 15 minutes of the experience. My reaction was that there's a lot of good, but some minor irritations. For starters, the glasses needed to watch are somewhat bulky and there are moments when there's not a huge difference in look from conventional TV to 3-D. However those minor complaints go away when you feel like you're looking over a patrons shoulder to watch Jack Nicklaus putt, or that you're standing on the curved edge of the pond. The Par 3 was just a sampling and the actual tournament coverage likely will lend itself even better to 3-D viewing, as the elevation changes, steep bunkers and undulating greens (substantial in many spots) can't truly be appreciated in two-dimensions. In 3-D the trees frame shots better, the color appears more vivid. In many instances, it really does feel like you're there.
And isn't that the whole point?
-- *E. Michael Johnson