Masters.org - Better, But Plenty of Room for Improvement

I would be very comfortable in making the statement that the Master's is one of my favorite sporting events to watch on television. Sure, the first four days of March Madness, the World Cup, New Year's Day Bowl games, and the World Series are wonderful events, but to me the Masters is different. Each of those other events are captivating and are things that I look forward to. A few of them (World Cup & March Madness) even make me alter my workday by staying home, or going out for a long lunch, or leaving early. New Year's Day has changed so much over the course of the past 10 years that it matters less and less, with the "big" games occurring on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and now even later. (That, plus the fact that the Illini haven't played in NYDay in many a moon.)

masters.gifThe Masters, though, is a weekend event, where I don't really "root" for anyone in particular. Yes, I have my favorites (Sergio & Colin Montgomerie), but in the end, it doesn't really matter who wins. I sit down and watch A LOT of it on tv both on Saturday and Sunday. What's better than Jim Nantz quietly talking about the "Amen Corner" coupled with shots of the Azeleas and Dogwoods in bloom with birds chirping on the soundtrack.

I'm not on any anti-anxiety medicine (and some in my life believe that I should be!), but after watching 4-5 hours of this for 2 days, I don't need any. I'm as relaxed as I can be. I wish they would expand that experience to their website.

Today is the first day and one that I traditionally "miss" because I'm in an office or doing something else. ESPN's Jason Sobel is doing an incredible job live-blogging the day, but Masters.org is a bit of a letdown. It's a vast improvement over last year, but it's still not where it needs to be.

They bill their site has having "live video" from Amen Corner and the driving range, and it is live. For about 3 minutes. Then they drop your connection. You have to continue to click on "watch" after each 3 minute segment. Too expensive you say, right? If the NCAA can do it during March Madness, you guys can do it to. After all, you're on the SAME NETWORK! (MLB is way out in front of this stuff, and oftentimes powers broadcasts like this.)

Getting the connection to not "drop" is one thing, but there's so much more to improve. I applaud Masters.org for having an rss feed. The problem? It's a mess of content. There's news stories, "notes", tee times and pairings, and even a series of diary posts from a player. Don't get me wrong. It's great for Masters fanatics, but there's more they can do. What about being able to sign up for a feed of your favorite player? You can pick your "favorites" on the site and follow their action. Let's get a feed up there, too.

The player diary is a really nice touch and they should be pushing for more players to do the same. I bet that soon enough, we'll see a golfer go the same route Red Sox Pitcher Curt Shilling has gone: write their own stand-alone blog. The Masters should grab those relationships while they can. Will Tiger blog? No, but I bet Luke Donald would.

How about getting a little involved in the community. Make the leaderboard a "widget" where I can embed it on my blog for the week. The Masters should be doing some blog work and reaching out to publishers. I bet just about every sports blogger who is out there would carry a leaderboard widget on their site if you worked with them. That leads me to the next thought. Why not work to broadcast the tournament online with a similiar system that the Tour of California used for the bicycle race?

Layer some data on top of the broadcast. Leaderboards, stats (greens in regulation, etc), weather, news, hole descriptions, history, and then carry blog posts tagged with a "Masters2007" tag. Even bring in Flickr photos with a certain specified tag. Let me determine what is organized where and how much video I want "poking" through.

As others have said, moving toward this type of convergence worked really well with cycling, and I think it would work even better with golf. The PGA should be looking to deliver this type of experience to the consumer in the coming months and years. If they don't we'll go elsewhere for our Sunday afternoon nap time tv watching.

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