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Best: Nantz unabashedly gushes his love for Masters

CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz is shown at the

CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz is shown at the Pebble Beach Pro Am golf tournament. (Feb. 9, 2008) Photo Credit: CBS Sports

Chances are you think of Jim Nantz as the calm and amiable face of CBS Sports, someone who greets viewers as "friends" and seems to mean it.

I certainly do, and I've actually known the guy casually for almost 20 years.

But last month, I encountered another side of Nantz when I asked him about those (including me) who have poked fun at him for his flowery, reverential language at the Masters.

As another longtime CBS announcer might have said: Oh my!

"You need to go to the Masters sometime, because you don't get it," he began, speaking after CBS' pre-NCAA luncheon.

At first, I thought he might be putting me on. Um, no. "Seriously, you don't get it," he said, growing increasingly agitated. "Do you watch golf? Why don't you go around to a golf tournament sometime and if we run into a thousand people and if one in a thousand says something to me, then I will pay you a hundred dollars.

"Nobody looks at it that way except for people that don't watch golf. Golf's an easy sport to attack. You don't understand the culture of it."

Nantz, 50, has called numerous big events, but nothing comes close to his feelings for the Masters, which he will work for the 25th time this week. (In 2035, he hopes to make it an even 50.)

That, he said, explains his tone, and his refusal to apologize for it.

"I am in love with the Masters, OK?" he said. "That's the way I feel about it. Nobody is putting those words in my mouth.

"Why would I want to tailor my way of approaching the Masters tournament to some guy who's a blogger who doesn't watch the Masters, or to someone like you who doesn't understand the difference between a birdie and a bogey? Why would I care what you think about it?"

Even as I tried to explain that I have covered three golf majors - no Masters, though - and am familiar with the scoring system, I had to admire his passion. It clearly is genuine.

Here is something he said he had not told anyone else before:

"Four years in a row, I've had a line embedded in my broadcast, and it's important for me to say it, and it is, 'I hope you're watching. It's going to be a special day. I hope you're watching with someone special to you.'

"That's from my father. It's not because Augusta is telling me to say that. I used to sit as a little boy watching the Masters with my father. So I say that line and it's hard for me to get the words out when I say that, because that's an experience from my life.

"I feel blessed and lucky to have this childhood dream come true."

Nantz is far from the only Masters chronicler who feels this way; it regularly turns otherwise cynical journalists all gooey inside.

"It's crazy that I have to respond to people who are like, 'Hey, it's a little flowery. Are you going to change it?' '' he said. "Change it? For you? Are you kidding me?"

Nantz said he accepts the criticism of skeptics but added: "I don't have a cynical bone in my body. That's the problem. I am who I am. That's how my father was. I don't do sarcasm well."

He also said: "It's really easy to live in New York and not be a golf person and think you know what Augusta is like and how much they tell us what to do. It's easy to sit back and roll your eyes. That's sad to me."

If Tiger Woods is in contention, this could be the most-watched golf event ever. But Tiger or no Tiger, Nantz will feel the same responsibility to the sport and tournament.

"I feel more tension and nervousness to get just the right exact prose on a canvas that's that big and beautiful," he said. "I'm going to approach this in a dispassionate fashion? It's not in my DNA."

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