Tiger Woods reacts on the second green during the final...

Tiger Woods reacts on the second green during the final round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 11, 2018 in Palm Harbor, Florida. Credit: Getty Images / Michael Reaves

Jim Nantz has been covering the Masters for a third of a century for CBS, and never has been shy about promoting its specialness. So it spoke volumes on Wednesday when he said this about the 2018 event, which starts April 5:

“This will be [my] 33rd year of broadcasting the Masters,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “It’s always highly anticipated, but I think anyone who’s on this call who follows the game knows that this is probably the most anticipated that any of us have seen in our lifetimes.”

Nantz is 58, and there were people on the call older than that, including his boss, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, 63. So that’s a lot of lifetime.

But before you assume Nantz only was talking about the return to health and prominence of Tigers Woods, he wasn’t, even though that is a big part of it.

“Tiger has returned, and far surpassed anyone’s loftiest expectations of what he’d be able to do this quickly,” Nantz said. ”It’s exciting for the game. It’s indisputable there’s a greater buzz when he’s in the middle of it.

“It’s interesting, at the same time, I don’t know if it’s related, but the best players in the world — virtually every one; not all, but almost all — have also seen their games rise to a very healthy level approaching Augusta.”

Hence the anticipation. Among the stars Nantz mentioned who have had their moments early this year were Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and Jason Day.

All true. But still: Tiger’s back!

McManus called the bump in ratings that Woods brings “about as automatic as anything in sports television.”

Asked how important having Woods in contention is for CBS, McManus said, “I wouldn’t use the word ‘important.’ I would use the words ‘it would be nice if he were on the leader board and in contention on Saturday and Sunday.’ But I do not think our Masters telecast will live or die with the presence of Tiger Woods.”

CBS analyst Nick Faldo said, “Obviously, Tiger has created a great buzz this year . . . The media and on-course attention has been very much like the old days with Tiger, so it’s been great.”

Nantz said that getting Woods back in the Butler Cabin as the green jacket winner would “truly be one of the all-time scripts,” but he added that will be true whether it happens this year or any other time before Woods retires.

“Whenever that happens,” Nantz said, “you’re going to be talking about this on as grand a scale as Jack [Nicklaus] in 1986. I really believe that.”

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