The Masters TV, online streaming schedule continues to antagonize the audience

USA TODAY Sports

A tradition unlike any other: being unable to watch the best players in the world play at the biggest event of the year.

The traditions of the Masters run a spectrum from uniquely cool to treacly humorous to annoyingly grating. One tradition that falls under the last category is Augusta National's insistence that coverage of their grand event be extremely limited, compared to all other major golf tournaments. While tee times start first thing in the morning, the TV broadcast does not come on the air until 3 p.m. the first three days and 2 p.m. on Sunday. That's more than what it once was, and at least now all the holes on the course are in view of a television camera.

But it's still bizarre that you're unable to watch as much as possible, or at least more of, golf's most important event of the year. Here's what the chairman, Billy Payne, who's certainly not as uptight as former men in his position like Clifford Roberts or Hootie Johnson, said last year about the limited TV coverage.

That's an age‑old question, Bob, about how much TV is enough. We have through time expanded a little bit, and you know, we know everybody wants more. And we know we're at the beginning of what digital platforms can do for you in terms of having your own control over the experience, and we are right in the middle of all that trying to learn. But you know, I think it's fair to say that one of the tenets that we hold to most dearly is that, you know, it is limited. And I think because it is, it makes it a little more special.

The "a little more special" kicker is just infuriating for anyone who might be interested in this event.

To their credit, Augusta National has done a pretty good job of embracing some new technologies, and providing multiple ways to stream the tournament on their website for several years now. That's again the case this year, with streams set up for Amen Corner, the usually dramatic par-5 and par-3 duo at Nos. 15 and 16, and then two featured groups streams.

But there's also a catch for these. It's those last featured groups streams where you think we'd get to watch the biggest names before they're on TV, with those guys guaranteed to play one day, when they're out in the morning wave, completely before TV goes on the air. Nope, per Payne, a player can only play on the featured groups stream one day, and they continue to put the best guys on those streams when they most overlap with the coverage already available on TV.

Here's the schedule for this year

Thursday Featured Group No. 1

Tee time

Players

9:35 a.m.

Graeme McDowell

Rickie Fowler

Jimmy Walker

12:20 p.m.

Matt Kuchar

Louis Oosthuizen

Thongchai Jaidee

1:48 p.m.

Phil Mickelson

Ernie Els

Justin Rose

Thursday Featured Group No. 2

Tee time

Players

9:57 a.m.

Zach Johnson

K.J. Choi

Steve Stricker

12:31 p.m.

Trevor Immelman

Graham DeLaet

Oliver Ross

1:59 p.m.

Harris English

Lee Westwood

Russell Henley

And for the second round on Friday:

Friday Featured Group No. 1

Tee time

Players

9:35 a.m.

Jason Day

Dustin Johnson

Henrik Stenson

12:20 p.m.

Angel Cabrera

Ian Poulter

Gary Woodland

1:48 p.m.

Adam Scott

Jason Dufner

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Friday Featured Group No. 2

Tee time

Players

9:57 a.m.

Bubba Watson

Luke Donald

Sergio Garcia

12:31 p.m.

Fred Couples

Webb Simpson

Chang-woo Lee

1:59 p.m.

Jordan Spieth

Rory McIlroy

Patrick Reed

Last year, this was particularly ugly when people tried to tune in and watch Tiger Woods, the singular reason a large chunk of the audience cares about golf, playing his first round in untelevised and unstreamed obscurity. He was in the featured groups stream the next day but that was when he largely played in the TV coverage window anyway.

This year, the same practice will keep defending champ Adam Scott and the Rory McIlroy-Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed group out of view on Thursday, and Phil Mickelson off the televised grid on Friday. Scott, Rory, and Phil are considered the biggest draws of the week with no Tiger, but again, we'll miss those guys one of the first two days.

It's just another way the Masters is "special."

As a guide, here's your media schedule for Thursday:

First round coverage

Television:

11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Live Masters on the Range - CBS Sports Network

3 - 7:30 p.m.: Live first round coverage - ESPN

8 - 11 p.m.: Replay of first round coverage - ESPN

11:30 p.m. - 11:45 p.m.: Highlights of the first round - CBS

Online:

Available at Masters.com and CBSSports.com

10:20 a.m. - 6 p.m.: Amen Corner live stream

11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Live Masters on the Range

11:45 a.m. - 7 p.m.: Nos. 15 and 16 live stream

Noon - completion: Featured Group 1 and Featured Group 2 streams.

Radio:

2 p.m. - completion: Masters Radio - Masters.com

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