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CBS will focus but not obsess over Tiger at Masters

CBS Sports will not shy away from the Tiger Woods story at the Masters, its president said Monday, but neither will it dwell on details of his off-course troubles.

"We're not going to ignore it,'' Sean McManus said. "We're going to talk about it as it pertains to the golf tournament.''

Such is the fine line the network must walk as it prepares for what figures to be the most-watched golf tournament in history if Woods is in contention over the weekend.

After listening to question after question about Woods on a CBS conference call, lead announcer Jim Nantz, who will work his 25th Masters, seemed to grow impatient.

"I'm not there to do 'Face the Nation,' '' he said. "We're there to cover a golf tournament.''

Regardless of Woods' tee times Thursday and Friday, much of his first two rounds will not be seen live on ESPN during its 4-7:30 p.m. time slots. (His first tee shot Thursday will be seen live.)

ESPN will use CBS' production; the entire operation will shift to CBS on Saturday.

What might viewership be like if Woods is in the hunt late?

"This is not a scoop, but if he's on the leader board and in contention Saturday and Sunday, the ratings will be very, very large,'' McManus said.

And if he wins?

"It would be a titanic achievement,'' Nantz said.

Nick Faldo, a CBS analyst, said Woods faces a daunting path to that achievement.

The three-time Masters winner said the long layoff could affect Woods' sharpness and fitness in hot and humid weather.

"If you haven't been walking golf courses, it can be tough,'' he said. "I can't believe he's been able to practice with that 100-percent commitment you need.''

Faldo also wondered how Woods will respond psychologically.

"Obviously, his self-esteem has been dented,'' he said. "This week is going to be fascinating to see how he deals with all these factors . . . He's going to be critiqued on every single shot. He needs to find a comfort zone.''

After Monday's news conference, CBS is under no illusions it can or should break new ground on his off-course saga. But observing how he reacts and what kind of reception he gets will be ongoing stories.

In that way, Woods' situation differs from the Martha Burk-led 2003 protests over the lack of female members at Augusta National, which was not covered during CBS' tournament show.

"We are there to cover the golf tournament, and obviously what has happened to Tiger Woods since Thanksgiving night is a major story,'' McManus said.

He added he has not told announcers what to say or not say about Woods, and that he has heard nothing from Masters officials about how CBS should handle its coverage.

New York Sports