ESPN Photo of Michael Eaves with Curtis Strange at Augusta National on Wednesday
By LARRY VAUGHT
As an ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Michael Eaves is used to being part of major sporting events.
However, the Kentucky native knows what event really stands out to him — the Masters.
“This is my favorite week of the year. The only thing different is that this year it is in November and not April,” said Eaves Wednesday before he started his long work day at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
“It’s definitely different this week. So much of this place is about the people who come here and the excitement they bring every day starting on Monday. It is eerily quiet here, which is way different for this course and tournament.”
Eaves knows players feed off energy from the “patrons” at the event, including practice rounds.
“No other course has as many patrons on the grounds Monday through Wednesday as Augusta National,” Eaves said. “I am not saying that will impact how players play but I have not yet seen the same level of anticipation from them this week.”
This is Eaves’ fourth year at the Masters. His first year he got to see Sergio Garcia win. The second year Patrick Reed, who grew up playing the course, won. Eaves was there last year for Tiger Woods’ historic win in May when most believed at age 44 he would not win another major.
Is Woods’ return and defending the title the week’s biggest story?
“If this had been in April, it would have been,” Eaves said. “But now what Bryson (DeChambeau) is doing with his new body and hitting the ball farther than anybody has. And he’s won twice, including just winning the U.S. Open. He’s the one people are talking about the most with Tiger a close second.”
If you watch Masters coverage Thursday through Sunday on ESPN or ESPN+ you likely are going to see Eaves, a former sports anchor/reporter at WKYT-TV in Lexington for six years starting in 1993.
“I am working more because we were not allowed to bring as many people (due to the pandemic),” Eaves said. “The only on-air anchors are me and Scott Van Pelt. Normally a lot of us would split up duties. But I enjoy it. I could talk golf all day.”
He still remembers when he met golf legend Jack Nicklaus for the first time at the Masters and the Hall of Famer told Eaves he knew who he was.
“That was so cool,” Eaves admitted.
It would be really cool for many if Woods won again. Could it happen?
“I will say there is always a chance. If there is one place he will be able to contend the longest, it would be this place,” Eaves said. “Similar to what Jack did at age 46 in 1986 when he won here. That one Sunday he put it all together and he won. But you look at the field and see how good these young players are and know it would be tough for 40-year-old Tiger to win.”
ESPN+ coverage starts at 7:30 a.m. Thursday featuring groups that have Woods and DeChambeau along with coverage of select holes on the course. It will air at the same time Friday.
ESPN will have live coverage from 1-5:30 p.m. both Thursday and Friday before CBS has play on Saturday and Sunday.
Eaves is just glad Augusta National relinquished and is allowing more live golf to be shown, something it has been reluctant to do before.
“I think our ratings are going to be high with a lot of people wanting to see all they can,” Eaves said.